Striking the balance between thinking and doing.

Let me tell you a short tale of two organisations.

In most respects, these two organisations are the same size, same sort of friendly culture, same overall purpose. But there’s one thing that is markedly different about them.

Organisation A is a place where things happen SLOWLY. Decisions have to go up each step of the hierarchy. Many many meetings are required to reach conclusions. Progress is often glacial. Staff feel frustrated by the lack of urgency to get things done — particularly around things they see as obvious problems.

Organisation B is a place where things happen RAPIDLY. Change is fairly constant. New departments spring up. New initiatives are launched. Teams are regularly reconfigured. Staff feel like it’s hard to keep up or are confused about the latest change and often lament that they’re out of the loop.

These two organisations represent the opposing ends of the same spectrum. One is deliberating for so long about anything and everything that there’s a very real threat of the world leaving it behind. The other is geared so heavily for doing things that it runs the risk of missing opportunities by not learning from valuable past experience.

As with most things in life, there’s an ideal balance to be struck. Knowing how long to spend thinking before doing seems key.

So, where does this disparity come from? Given that almost all factors are equal, what makes one workplace static whilst another is non-stop. It’s the people that work there (of course!!).

Some of us love to hold on to decisions and examine every possible angle. Others feel a strong need to just push on and act. Depending on the makeup of decision makers in your organisation you may find you lean more towards thinking than action, or vice versa.

How do we strike the right balance? How do we think just enough to provide good foundation for action? How do we act just enough to provide good data for further thought?

In essence, this is why I’m a fan of a small, iterative approach to most things. *I’m parking a caveat here.

Think about what you’re trying to do.. but not so much that you’re just creating a whole load of untested assumptions that will later obscure the correct path and create inertia.

Do something, but don’t do so much that you’re blindly racing off in entirely the wrong direction and start creating a solution in search of a problem.

Working in this iterative manner brings its own set of challenges (because no method is ever 100% perfect, because humans aren’t perfect) but it does a far better job of harmonising the thinkers and doers.

The alternative is a perpetual arm wrestle between stop and go.

*If the environment is well known + highly predictable — don’t iterate. Just do!

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