Leaders deal with untidy things. Grey areas, ambiguous feelings, conflicting concepts... they're all part of the leader's regular habitat. And this question is one of the least tidy, but most critical:
How resolute should I be?
I'm thinking of this, of course, because it's a new year, when resolutions run rampant. But those are usually easy. Yes, we should stick to a healthy diet. Yes, we should exercise every week. Yes, we should be nice to small animals until next year. We should be resolute.
But in the middle of the business scrum it's not so easy to decide when to stick and when to stray. Resoluteness has traditionally been a virtue, and for good reason. Every worthy endeavor has moments when it has to push through, when motivation lags and challenges arise. Seth Godin refers to this as The Dip. But not every plan is the best plan, and not every investment is worth doubling down.
There are plenty of situations that prove the wisdom of changing direction. Today the faddish and distastefully ubiquitous phrase for this is "to pivot," as in "Our original plan was to launch a social media platform for zombies, but we decided to pivot when our market research revealed that there aren't actually any undead customers."
History is littered with examples of resoluteness as both virtue (William Wilberforce) and foolishness (Kim Jong Il & Son). But in many of our predicaments, the wisdom of being resolute, or not, is usually only clear in hindsight.
So we decided to:
- Get into a new market
- Try a different compensation structure
- Keep our current channel partner
- Raise prices
- Lower prices
- Focus on a new customer segment
- Ignore that new technology
- Make products here
- Make products there
And it's not yet clear whether it was a good idea. Do we stick with it, or is it time for a change?
Well, it depends. And this is why you're not getting paid by the hour. If it was simple, anyone could lead well. The best I can offer you is a set of questions that prompt an untidy but critical conversation.
- Is it congruent with who we are - our key objectives and what we're good at?
- Does it fit the relevant customer segments - the way they think, buy or use our product or service? Does it suit their self-interest?
- What are the critical assumptions and are we confident in their accuracy?
- Have we given it a long enough run to find out if the plan is valid?
- How much longer would we need to make a reasonable assessment of its validity?
- How important is it to our future?
- Is the risk manageable relative to the potential value?