Every day we are faced with decisions and choices, which oftentimes, deserve careful consideration. It is important to not jump to a conclusion, but rather to weigh options and the potential outcomes of our choices.
By the questions we ask, the perspectives we consider, and the consequences of actions we foresee, systems thinkers naturally integrate a process for fully considering an issue. Taking time to think things through and to consider an issue fully increases the likelihood of a high-quality outcome.
“Fast and Lean” is a mantra some companies live by as a way to stay ahead of the competition. When adhering to this ideal, speed becomes an ally, and taking time to learn, develop and refine ideas becomes a source of angst. What happens when a quick conclusion is acted upon only to create another problem? Or what about a quick conclusion that results in a promising new idea being poorly implemented? Systems thinkers do not needlessly slow an organization down. Rather, they offer a perspective that encourages the balance between efficiency and effectiveness. In the following scenarios, consider the benefits and trade-offs of coming to a quick conclusion. As you read through the following scenarios, think about this question:
What potential pressures lead to conclusions that could have benefitted from additional consideration?
The Importance of Careful Hiring
Deb is head of Human Resources for a large urban hospital. Given a shortage of registered nurses, she feels tremendous pressure to jump to a quick conclusion when hiring new employees. The prospect of losing excellent talent to a competing hospital or having a position go unfilled seems to make it worth the risk of hiring the wrong person. However, in her haste, Deb hired a nurse without properly checking her references, resulting in a new employee whose unethical actions reflected very poorly on the hospital.
Deb is now more mindful about the importance of carefully considering the qualifications and experience of each potential candidate. She also recognizes that the time spent thoroughly investigating the backgrounds of new employees saves valuable time in the long run. These carefully selected employees require less supervision and need less time to become oriented to their new positions.
Unlike some of the time-bound restraints that Deb faced with a busy urban hospital, Sean has his own hiring story. He started a pool cleaning company as a sole proprietor working all day to service his growing clientele and taking care of the company operations at night. As his client base grew, Sean knew it was time to bring on additional personnel. He had the knowledge and personality that kept his customers very happy, so he was reluctant to hire someone to take care of his clients (even though he knew he needed to spend more time on the operations side of the business). After careful consideration, Sean found excellent employees who were eager to learn and committed to the same high level of customer service that he had been able to provide. As the years passed, his company continued to grow. Sean established a process for hiring and training new employees. Even with an efficient process in place, each time he hired a new employee, Sean carefully considered the timing and implications of additional personnel. While a new employee allowed him to serve more clients, thereby generating more revenue, it also required the purchase of additional trucks and more equipment. It took some time to recoup those costs and see the benefit of additional employees. Sean successfully practiced the Habit of considering an issue fully in order to experience continuous, sustainable growth in his business.
Fully Considering the Purchase of a New Home
Remember Tom and Elena from previous Habits courses? They had to consider the seller’s perspective, so they were not too discouraged nor too demanding in response to their home inspection report. Long before they made an offer and ordered a home inspection, they faced the challenges associated with relocation. Elena was offered a great position at a new firm, but it required a major move. Once she accepted the position, the clock began ticking for them to find a home in the new city. However, they had to hold the tension and consider the issue fully in order to ensure their family’s needs were met and they could establish priorities for the relocation. If Tom and Elena failed to fully consider their decision, they could have bought a home that didn’t meet their needs, was in an inconvenient location, or was not worth the money they would spend. Sometimes homebuyers, like Tom and Elena, feel pressured to buy a home that is not suitable for them. This pressure can come from an overzealous realtor, a seller’s market where home offers quickly become bidding wars, or in this case, the pressure to get settled quickly in order to start a new job.
Parenting also provides opportunities to apply this Habit. Joseph’s son asks to spend the night with a friend. Responding with little consideration, Joseph quickly retorts, “No.” Joseph is then subjected to an extended period of whining, complaining, bargaining and cajoling. Eventually, he realizes there was no real reason for his quick retort and changes his mind, granting his son’s request to spend the night. Not only has Joseph endured an unpleasant, potentially damaging exchange with his son, but he has also communicated that with enough effort the child will be able to get his way. How much better would it have been for Joseph to have gathered all the facts first, and then made a thoughtful, conscious decision that the request was reasonable and said, “Yes” from the beginning? Quick-paced schedules and our own patterns of behavior can lead us to come to a quick conclusion without considering an issue fully.
Phillip has been chosen to lead a team challenged with improving the efficiency of a production. He consciously works to apply this Habit so that the team can produce a plan with just the right amount of time devoted to reaching an optimal solution. Too much deliberation can frustrate individuals causing the quality of his team’s thinking to decrease. On the other hand, he wants to assure that his team is not agreeing all the time just to avoid conflict, as this, too, could prevent them from arriving at the best solutions.
When systems thinkers apply the proper balance between quick fixes and carefully considered solutions, they are more likely to arrive at actions that achieve desirable outcomes. There are occasions when decisions are time-dependent and have to be made quickly. It may be an issue of safety or a topic about which stakeholders have already debated the benefits and trade-offs repeatedly with little result. In those instances, a skillful leader makes a decision and then communicates it clearly.
“Embraces ambiguity: hold the tension of paradox and ambiguity, without trying to resolve it quickly.”