Is a failed action the same as a failure to act?

27 04 2009

Over the weekend, Seth Godin blogged about making timely decisions.  It brought to mind a number of items worth additional discussion.  One of my favorite sayings is “we should do something” when managers are shown a potential issue.  It is usually followed up with a flurry of meetings, too much information, and less than a clear path forward.  While frustrating, it became clear over time that we often lack a process to consider, debate, and ultimately put ad-hoc course corrrections into action.  It was also appearant that we suffer from a culture that uses information overload to decline action based on the need for additional information.

To make a little more sense of it, here is a two by two grid that shows the risk and rewards of whether action was created and whether it was correct or not.  The goal of this was to highlight perhaps the personal motivations behind action or lack thereof.


Creating action is more likely to cause the extremes in risk versus reward, while delaying or taking no action is often the safer route.  While companies need to take risks to lead within the market, employees may not have the same motivations.  Is the potential for a promotion, worth the risk of falling out of favor?  Do we, as company policy, reward action financially?  Is a failed action the same as a failure to act?




One response

7 05 2009
David Pitts

It seems to me that maybe the comments are ok if they are based off of me requesting the action. Obviously If I am asking you to implement a wrong decision and you don’t act your indecision pays off for me. If I am correct and you don’t act I get to say “I told ya so”.
It seems wrong from the perspective of the actor however. The best I can say if you ask me to act on a wrong decision, and I don’t, would be “Who Knew!” or “you weren’t convincing enough” , this might be a successful strategy to work on the same change agent (you get the change agent canned for inability to leverage Change!)
Successive incidents like this though would probably get you canned for stone walling, don’t you think

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