As leaders, or indeed anyone in a position where they can consider and/or define potential changes to existing processes, protocols, systems, we should regularly be faced with moments where we choose whether or not to execute those changes in the real world. At that point we know what the change involves and it’s intended impact. We know both the immediate impact it is expected to have operationally, and the strategic objective it serves. Yet often we will shy away from timely decisions, finding a reason to seek more supporting information, to defer or to cancel.

Now there’s no precise formula to follow when assessing what information you need, to be able to make the best decisions, but there is plenty of reason to be brave.

Let’s start with an over-simplified declaration that

  1. if you weren’t equipped to make the decision then you wouldn’t have been given the remit and power to be able to make it, and
  2. you wouldn’t have come to a clear decision point if you didn’t have the capability to assess the information you have available

OK, there are opportunities to paper over cracks, stand on the shoulders of others, blag a role beyond our capabilities, but more often than not those get discovered sooner than later, or else we realise quickly that we’re out of our depth and we find our way out of that situation.

So let’s trust the people who give us the freedom to innovate, to initiate change, and let’s trust the knowledge we’ve built up.

Let’s also accept that within our organisations, which we have chosen to work in, and where we share common purpose with our colleagues and peers, no-one is deliberately setting us up to fail.

Now let’s choose not to play our imposter syndrome get out card, let’s nurture that seed of confidence, and let’s make some impactful decisions so we can learn from them and grow in confidence.

To be able to follow through then we need to put aside any notion we might have that there are perfectly-informed decisions which can be made. Even given endless time, the smartest virtual assistant and all the computing power in the universe, there will always be more information which you could have referred to, simply because information is being created at a phenomenal rate which outstrips our ability to consume and assess it, to bring it into play.

So where does that leave us?

It does, it has to, leave us free to make decisions based on what we know, with known objectives which the planned impact is expected to enable or achieve. And it leaves us open to the possibility that the scenarios we crafted in our head (after we’d parked our imposter) might not work out as planned. And that’s ok.

It’s ok because we live in an inexact, unexplored world. Because we don’t know everything and we never will. Because we’re trying to bring about change. Because we’re trying to make things better, to do some good.

Those are lofty ambitions and we can’t always achieve them, but if we’re brave enough to make those decisions, to execute those changes, then we will make some things better; we’ll do more good than if we shy away.

So we need to keep trying new ideas:

  • it’s important to innovate, to evolve, to make the right changes (not change for its own sake)
  • it’s more important to monitor our impact and learn from the changes we make
  • it’s most important to be brave and not to procrastinate around an endless series of “what-ifs”

Make the change, monitor the effect, accept imperfections in the model and tune if you need to, undo/rewind if you really have to, but don’t hide from the changes or disown them.

Learn from both the good and the less so, apply those lessons where appropriate, go again.

I wrote this initially when cogitating on the idea of “Fail fast, fail forward” the principles of which I do absolutely support…

Except I don’t think that a well-intentioned change which doesn’t work out is a failure, a mistake, an error, breaking things, it’s a change which didn’t have the desired effect so the next one will need to take you further forward.