ONWARD! – Action Brings Clarity

If you never take action, you’ll never get any feedback on your attempts, and without feedback, you’ll never grow as a problem-solver…When you do take action, every result is an opportunity to reflect and learn valuable lessons. Even if what you take away from your assessment seems to be of small consequence, all of these small improvements taken together make a huge difference in the long-term.

Ken Watanabe, Problem Solving 101

For some reason, the more time we have, the more skills we acquire, the more tools we have at our disposal, the more likely we are to get stuck in our own analysis (paralysis). It’s as if we need a counter-force to thrust us past our own inertias of resistance, to get us out there driving, and away from assessing and analyzing.

This resistance to move forward seems to come from some underlying belief that says that if we have enough data, time, and tools, it’s possible to find the ‘right’ answer or at least avoid the ‘wrong’ one. When in fact, in our experience, there is rarely a silver bullet and similarly there is rarely a fatal pitfall (deathblow).

I’d brashly embraced Sorbetto as a silver bullet. But there is no such thing. Not growing our store count. Not new coffee blends. Not loyalty or value programs. Not healthier foods and drinks. Yes, opportunities to transform Starbucks for profitable, sustainable growth existed everywhere, but no single move, no product, no promotion, and no individual would save the company. Our success would only be won by many. Transforming Starbucks was a complex puzzle we were trying to piece together, where everything we did contributed to the whole. We just had tofocus on the right, relevant things for our partners, for our customers, and for our shareholders, and for our brand.

Howard Schultz, Onward – How Starbucks Fought for its Life without Losing Its Soul

The key, is in the direction, focus, and momentum as demonstrated by the leadership, and rarely in any one element of a strategic transformation. Clear direction combined with brutal honesty and decisiveness when tactics aren’t working, often carries the day. If the general thrust is set, well communicated, and bought into while organizations are undergoing transformational change, they can weather innumerable missteps on the road to achieving their new state.

So why do we get so tentative when it comes to fumbling in our own business? We’re comfortable with missing an item on the grocery list, or making a wrong turn on the way to the freeway, but when it comes to a strategic misstep in our business, we find the risk difficult to stomach.

Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things. In a world where we are so certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness on their behalf.

William James, The Will to Believe

Realizing of course that there’s often much more at stake in our business decisions than in our grocery list, the steps and the operator are strikingly similar.


Typical Decision-Making Cycle

We would be greatly benefited in our Strategy Implementation decisions if we incorporated some elements of ‘Fast Chess’. Put as much time and emphasis on the action, assessment, and corrective-action as the initial steps and keep the momentum going.

We just need to train ourselves to stop thinking in terms of a silver bullet or a death-blow, but rather in terms of a symphony of directed activity with some off-notes and keys, coming together into a coordinated concert of results. If we can be ready and listening for those miscues, and quick to make the necessary adjustments, the music will keep coming together.

So why don’t we embrace our errors? Expect them, relish the information and learning that they bring, and take delight in our expanding awareness of our market’s evolution and our role in it.

In a sense, much the same thing could be said of life in general. We can’t know where our next error lurks or whatform it will take, but we can be very sure that it is waiting for us. With [optical] illusions, we look forward to this encounter,since whatever minor price we pay in pride is handily outweighed by curiosity at first and by pleasure afterward. The same will not always be true as we venture past these simple perceptual failures to more complex and consequential mistakes. But nor is the willing embrace of error always beyond us. In fact, this might be the most important thing illusions can teach us: that it is possible, at least some of the time, to find in being wrong a deeper satisfaction than we would have found in being right.

Kathryn Schulz, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error





Neil McDougall

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