“On s’engage, et puis – on voit.”
<you commit yourself, and then – you see.>
Commitment and patience and adaptation. I am fairly sure not a lot of business gurus put these three words together, however, the truth is the combination of these three ingredients is a powerful one.
Oddly it seems like not many of us learn this particular recipe.
First. How we engage. We tend to ‘commit’ one of two ways:
- tepidly. Oh. we claim 100% commitment but the majority of people are already investing in safety resources, redundancy protection and “what if” scenario making. In their words, their ‘commitment’ includes ‘committing to saving my ass’. We all do some aspects of this but we all need to recognize each ounce of energy on this is one less ounce of energy to whatever ‘commitment’ we have claimed to make.
- blinder commitment. Yeah. some people call this ‘focused commitment’, but that’s a nice way of saying ‘with blinders on’.
Second. We then tend to be less than patient. In fact I could suggest we are very often impatient in our engagement <but still committed to some plan>. I would suggest we often underestimate the value of doing nothing <and observing>. For some reason we attach ‘speed’ to engaging. That is a mistake. They are two distinctly different things.
Third. Adapting? Yikes. Paradoxically, if we do adapt, we would <in our eyes> bastardize the integrity of the structure of the commitment. Yes. For some reason many people see commitment in conflict with adapting. What this means is in most situations we are willing to stay the course with a plan … until the bitter end — “committed” in other words.
In business .many of us commit to a plan of action and believe staying the course creates the highest likelihood to succeed. And in our impatience we plow through opportunities to adapt. In other words, we don’t really ‘see’ … we just commit to a plan.
Now. To be clear. Napoleon also said “When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.”
I share that because the commitment wasn’t to the plan, but rather to the objective. And there is a massive difference. I sometimes believe in business <and Life too I imagine> we confuse this.
We commit and don’t see.
We commit and implement.
We commit to the means <the plan> and not the end <the objective>.
That said. Why?
Now <part 1>.
This may also be a reflection of a ‘cover your ass’ world we live in. What? If I do what I committed to do <the plan> and it doesn’t achieve the objective, well, “Ain’t my fault. I did what I was told to do” <or “I stuck to the plan everyone agreed was the best plan of action”>.
Conversely (the risk). As soon as you “see” <things just don’t seem to be going the way we planned> after you have made the initial commitment and adapt the plan, well … oops, you have assumed some responsibility. You are now accountable for not following the plan.
Now <part 2>.
You can always mitigate that responsibility by going back to the “all those who agreed it was the best plan” people and saying “here is what I see now that we have actually committed … and I think we should adapt in this way <to increase the likelihood we will achieve our objective commitment>”. The problem with this is timeliness. You miss the opportunity to make the change when it should be made. I will note that Napoleon was a master of adapting the original commitment within the proper window of ‘adapting opportunity.’
Gaining consensus on adapting <or a change to a plan> is a frickin’ bear. Let’s call it almost impossible. For sure we can call it ‘less than timely.’ Bottom line. Shirking responsibility <covering you ass> takes time.
Regardless. Risk analysis is simply part of business. Always has been and always will be. And it should be. Running a business without doing so is simply chaos; not running a business.
Eliminating risk is impossible. Only mitigating risk is possible. And I could argue that not adapting after committing actually increases risk. That said. This is about attitude & not risk mitigation so I will say I wish in today’s business world we would spend less time building ‘the perfect plan’ and instead build ‘the best plan we can’ and commit … and see.
But the dude knew how to commit.
He knew how to engage when the window of opportunity existed.
He knew how to ‘see’ <adapt>.
He knew how to keep his eye on the bigger commitment <the objective … see Vienna … take Vienna>.
He didn’t confuse committing to a plan and committing to an objective. Frankly, I believe we get confused on this far too often in business <even at some senior levels>. In my mind more business leaders should be saying ‘let’s commit … and see.’ And not just saying the words, but walking the walk so the implementers do not feel as if the plan is something etched in stone.
Adapting is part art <seeing information, data, research and feedback as it is absorbed and ‘feeling’ its momentum & conclusions – remember: statistics can lie as well as people can> and part science <making sure you actually see the most relevant information & feedback>.
I will say that effective commitment, thoughtful patience and opportunistic adapting is not for the faint of heart. You may not need be a Napoleon, but you do need some of his attitude.
Just remember the prize.
To the bold comes the fruits of victory.