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Dealing with Uncertainty

Time is speeding-up and with that, change is happening more frequently. Whenever we think we mastered a new theory or methodology it becomes outdated and we are back at square one. We need to learn something new. This is especially true in the world of business where different authors promote different theories and methodologies to explain similar business successes.

The amount of time elapsing between the launch of such a new idea or thesis and the arrival of its antithesis used to be around 100 years or so. Therefore, people had more than enough time for formulating a synthesis.

Today, new developments occur in rapid fire succession. This means that the same argument used to validate a thesis can also invalidate that same line of reasoning. It seems like a thesis and its antithesis arrive at the same time, so that we must proceed straight to crafting a synthesis.

Consequently, when we don’t know if an argument is valid or invalid, we become uncertain about our next course of action and we become susceptible to the fear of the unknown. You may ask if business process re-engineering is IN or OUT? How about balanced score-card, or operational efficiency? Who’s to judge while the jury is still out!

This uncertainty about what is right or wrong, good or bad is confusing and a confused mind says no to change. Instead of speeding-up the pace and dealing with change expeditiously, people start digging in their heels; they become resistant to change. So, what’s an effective way of dealing with the uncertainty of change? That’s a good question!

Allow me to go off on a tangent and then to bring the story back in for a perfect landing. Over time, I started to pay attention to words that derive their significance from somewhere else; words such as “change”, “performance”, “success”, “failure”, and “challenge” or “problem”. I call them “Bridge-Words” because they bridge the gap between one phenomenon and another.

For example, the bridge between actual results and your forecast is called “success” when you hit your target and “failure” when you don’t. Subsequently, the margin by which you miss your target is the “problem” or “challenge”. The significance of “performance” stems from year-on-year comparison within your own organization or in relationship to your nearest competitor. Just think about how your perception changes between flying 180 knots at 2.000ft and at 100ft. High in the sky you have few reference points by which to judge your speed but near the ground you’re flashing by trees, houses, or cars; that changes your perception drastically, doesn’t it?

Here’s a methodology for eliminating the fear of the unknown that helps you identifying two critical phenomena, which allows you to calculate the gap. This particular gap is expressed by the Bridge-Word “Problem”. Note that this methodology applies to both pain and desire; the pain caused by something that’s no longer working out and the desire for implementing a new idea.

Now, all you need for making the unknown known is filling in the blanks:

  • EFFECT       Describe the unintended and unwanted situation that you are experiencing today; the pain or desire.
  • NORM         Describe your measurable benchmarks for success.
  • PROBLEM     Measure the discrepancy between NORM and EFFECT.
  • CAUSE        Identify the cause in the cause & effect relationship.
  • EVENT        Analyze what triggered the cause & effect relationship.

Now that you have taken inventory of your own situation, you can start looking for solutions that fill the gap between your forecast or strategy and your actual results. What you’re looking for are no stop-gaps to stop the bleeding, but Authentic Solutions™ to solve your challenges once and for all. Here are the properties of an Authentic Solution:

  • Address the root-cause(s)
  • Align with the organization’s strategic direction
  • Generate synergy within the system’s existing processes

Are we cleared for landing?

By bringing in the Bridge-Word “Problem” we were able to put our situation into focus; quantify and qualify our pain or desire. Now you know the previously unknown. This newly acquired perspective provides us with clear guide lines, benchmarks and bandwidth for finding an Authentic Solution.

If your solution of choice matches up with your criteria, then go for it! Don’t worry about what the experts say in their books because most business theories are based on a fallacy anyway; but that’s a story for another day. You determine what’s right for you, in your context, here and now.

Now you’ll understand consultants idiosyncratic answer when presented with a choice between two alternative approaches; “It Depends”. It depends on your individual situation, which requires your making the unknown known using this simple methodology. And that’s how you deal with uncertainty.

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