Under Control

Fear, risk, they’re all sides of the same coin. When Mario Andretti was racing he realized that.  You needed that extra bit of risk, that fear to motivate you, to make you better than you were.  Step out of your comfort zone, accept the risk and experience the fear.

What fear?  In the business world, both private and public sector, that fear is failure.  Fear of failure stops us from accepting risk.  The fear of being out of control makes us move slowly, carefully, with all of the “i”‘s dotted and the “t”‘s crossed.  Fear makes us move slowly 

So it is as simple as allowing us to be risky, to accept failure, to allow ourselves to fail.  I wish things were as simple as just letting go and “going for it”.  But there’s more to it than just a one off event that says that it is okay to fail.

For an organization it requires a fundamental change to the culture.  Giving one person the option to fail while penalizing others does nothing for morale. The entire organization needs to be given permission to fail.

The entire organization needs to understand that being out of control, not knowing precisely what is going on is not a bad thing.  You have visions, you have objectives, you have guidelines on what needs to be done.  There are a lot of polices and procedures that can be put in place to guide the risk taking.  To funnel the productivity and creativity on solving problems.

But most importantly, you have your people.

People are the key differentiator in any enterprise.  They create the products.  They market.  They guide.  They manage.  They are the people that make the organization what it is and they are the people that can make it even better.  Your people are the key to success. You need them more than they need you.  You need to let them do what is necessary to make the organization successful. And therein lies one of the biggest problems in companies today.

Organizations put in place road blocks to success, not knowing that they are doing so.  Weekly status reports with burn down charts and variance reports, detailed work break down structures with estimates guarantees for work effort and delivery dates and firm delivery dates for products which were nebulous even after the budget had been allocated.  In our effort to manage (not govern, but manage) we’ve tried to remove as much risk as possible because we don’t want our people to vary from the plan.  We want them to deliver exactly what was asked for on the precise date.  We don’t trust our people to come up with the right solution.

If you don’t trust your people to do the right thing, why did you hire them in the first place?

We need to trust our people more.  We need to provide a culture that is results-based, not cost-based or schedule-based.  We need to provide a culture that encourages risk tasking, encourages creativity and, most importantly, is not always 100% in control.

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