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Business as a Spectator Sport

The Dutch are a seafaring nation and their language is rich in proverbs that reference the sea. One of those expressions I’d like to share with you translates as follows: “The Best Sailors Stand Onshore”. This means that it’s always easier to give advice when you don’t have to live with the consequences of being wrong yourself.

Have you ever been to a marina and watched a novice captain struggle to get his ship into a slip; fighting the current, the wind and his own lack of experience? To see the sheer terror on his face caused by his indecision to follow the advice shouted by his crew or listening to his own common sense makes this into a spectator sport! Oh yes, as spectators we do participate with our gestures, well intended comments and sometimes outright insults.

The business world is not very different. The arm-chair players rave about your success regardless of the idea and execution but vilify that same idea and execution when you fall flat on your face. When you’re successful it’s called audacious or innovative and when you fail they call it a gamble or just stupidity.

No wonder making strategic decisions can be so terrifying. It’s not like arithmetic where the unfavorable outcome of one operand can be undone by its opposite; for example a multiplication can be undone by a division and an addition by a subtraction. No, in business you have to live with the consequences of your mistakes and then make another strategic decision to mitigate the unintended and unwanted results.

When you’re going through some tough times, there’s no shortage of by-standers offering their opinions and expertise. But, how much attention do you pay to those consultants, who create dissonance by telling you what could go wrong, presenting you with hard evidence suggesting the chance that it might already be happening right now without your knowledge and how your stakeholders would hold you personally accountable for not taking the right action when there was still time to act? The clock is ticking!

Time is of the essence and here’s someone who has a proven solution that so many big names in the industry are already using; they should know what they’re doing, right? Oh, how could I forget, there’s this special deal, today only, for those leaders that make-up their minds quickly. Do I see you actually hesitating to jump on the bandwagon because you doubt their wisdom? How can you resist? Do you feel the fear of making mistakes creeping up inside of you?

When you act out of fear you risk adopting solutions that only address the symptom, which forces you to keep fixing a fix that was fixed by a fix that later needed fixing. Can you imagine having to account for your choice of a PREscribed solution, making excuses that you based your decision on the fact that the successful XYZ company is using it too? That “me-too” type of strategic decision-making keeps you hostage to MEDIOCRITY.

The difference between true consultants and people that sell ready-made, one-size-fits-all solutions is that true consultants do not PREscribe what you should do based on your symptoms and how much money they can make off you.

True consultants advise by DEScribing your situation in terms of relationships between means & ends and cause & effect. They reveal the root cause of your, pain based on your current results and the variance from your own benchmarks for success. Then, and only then, can you start creating an Authentic Solution™. These solutions address the root cause, align with your strategic direction and generate synergy within the existing system. That’s very different from acting on fear!

As a consultant I have the advantage of an outside perspective. Instead of looking for separate actions, I identify patterns of activities because they reveal a decision-maker’s way of thinking. This is where it gets really interesting because there’s no single right or wrong way of thinking as long as your reasoning gets you closer to achieving your purpose. It’s my job to make sure that the means & ends and cause & effect of your arguments are logically correct. That’s how I get involved in your business. Then, how could I possibly fail rooting for your success?

Once you know what you’re doing you’re no longer susceptible to the ploy of those solution-advisors trying to instill dissonance within you, or for that matter, those arm chair sailors in a marina. Remember the words of W. Edwards Deming, the man behind the tremendous success of the Japanese motor industry: “There’s no substitute for knowledge”.

One Comment

  1. Posted October 24, 2010 at 17:48 | Permalink

    Truly, being a professional who works both in the government and cooperative sector, I really met persons from both sides of the spectrum being mentioned in the blog. There were persons whom, at first glance you might consider as expert in the field. But a little engagement, without a benefit of a background investigation, would spell disaster. This happened to our coop, an IT consultant, endorsed by his brother manager of the federation, had presented to us what seemed a very workable savings and credit software. We signed up with him only to know that all the commands were none customizable, hence, not suitable for us. We realized that we were being duped, but only after losing some money, time and efforts.

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