Certainty is an Illusion. Stop Planning. Start Doing.

What is the biggest stumbling block for change in business? The relentless pursuit of certainty. Once we realize that finding certainty is not an attainable goal, everything changes. The corporate culture of meetings is one such example. I dislike them. I rarely participated in a meeting that was productive. Most meetings end with a decision to have another meeting. The dynamics of meetings, especially when the big boss sits at the head of the table, are just another version of Pavlov's Dogs: A bunch of people nodding "yes" and the boss feeling great about the meeting. I understand that meetings are supposed to get everyone on the same page, have a healthy exchange of ideas etc. But, while you're sitting at a meeting, not much gets done and all you think about is catching up. Meetings are designed to eliminate surprises and create a level of certainty that "things are going well". Not so.

How many times did I ask for a decision from my superior and what I got in return was "call a meeting"? More than I care to remember. "Let's get everyone's feedback before we proceed" sounds like a good idea but it rarely works for the same reason the meeting was called for in the first place - decision-avoidance and the pursuit of certainty*.

We must realize that making a decision and learning from its outcome, is far superior to wasting time chasing the ultimate solution. Moreover, while you're planning more meetings, your competition is eating your lunch.

Don't get me wrong. I am not condemning the concept of planning. It is absolutely required for properly executing any project or task. I am saying that in a technology-based world where information moves at the speed of a click, we can no longer afford to hide behind an inability and fear to make decisions.

My son is a gifted musician. He has brought many listeners to tears, yet, will never be satisfied with his level of playing. Artists are always in pursuit of perfection, they know they will never find it, but their journey creates amazing pieces of art. Not so in the business world. We live in a world of "ones and zeros" and if we choose to get off the bullet-train, we'll just be left behind. In the 21st century being left behind means that sooner or later you cease to exist.

Seth Godin, in his incredibly brilliant book "Survival Is Not Enough" speaks of the fear of change as a human trait that holds us back. I believe we mask that fear with an endless pursuit of certainty.

Small business owners are notorious for resisting change:  "Can you guarantee that this will work"? "We are doing okay. Why should we take a risk"? Interestingly, slow and deliberate change is what moves companies way ahead of the competition. So in reality, most of the decisions you avoid making will not destroy your business. There is one certainty you can count on for sure -- spend weeks planning until you "think" you have s a bulletproof plan, and you'll find out that while you were planning, everything changed and you're back to square one.

 

* Check out "Death by Meeting" by Patrick Lencioni.