Stop or Go – Are You Driving Your Business With the Brakes On?

Mark J. Komen

Kodyne, Inc.

Plymouth, MN

As I was driving home from a recent business meeting, I realized that when I come to an intersection with a stoplight and the light is green, I go.  But I also see many drivers approach an intersection and before they get there, they put their brakes on – even with a green light in their direction of traffic flow.  The way I understand stoplight information is that a Green light means GO, Yellow means CAUTION, Red means STOP.  Lights don’t jump from Green to Red so there would be plenty of time to slow down and stop.  So why are these drivers braking on a green light?  What are they afraid of?

That observation made me wonder how many of us drive our businesses with the “brakes on?”    Do perceived threats stop your organization from achieving your objectives?  Or do you keep moving forward, assess the situations that arise and plan around them?  More specifically,

  •          Do you stop selling when a new competitor enters your market?
  •          Do you shut down your production line because you think your logistics company is being purchased?
  •          Do you quit hiring because there might be a new federal regulation passed that could affect your HR practices?
  •          Do you stop taking on new clients because a key staff member resigns?

Chances are, you don’t.  Considering the physics principle of Newton’s 1st law of motion (objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force), it’s a whole lot easier to keep moving forward when you’re, well, moving forward.  If you brake to a stop, it takes a lot of energy to start up again which, in business, usually translates to lost time, lost revenue, reduced productivity, late deliveries and missed opportunities.

The agile organization makes course corrections to accommodate new information, new competition, or new laws but they keep moving forward.  Slowing down at that intersection may make sense if you see that some driver approaching from the side is going to run the red light.  Slowing down by taking your foot off the gas (coasting) is not the same as putting on the brakes.  Sometimes “Wait and See” is the wisest course of action.

I have been involved with numerous organizations where “Stop. Go. Stop. Go” has become the way they operate.  It’s as if they look for reasons to not make progress or even to get started.  “But WAIT… ” become the words that trigger the brakes.  There’s always that newest piece of information to consider, that last additional bit of test data to collect and analyze, that one person’s opinion to solicit that puts the brakes on or keeps them on.  I’m not talking about reckless or poorly considered decisions here.  An effective and systematic vetting process using fact-based analysis and critical thinking is theoretically positioned to prevent these kinds of decisions if implemented early enough.  It’s when work is in-process that some organizational leaders have instilled the fear that something could go wrong at any moment and caution should be observed at every turn in the road.  This also surfaces where the leaders’ mindset is to not take chances or to not trust in their ability to deal with things as they come up

Does fear drive your decisions or do you face that intersection with the confidence that you have the momentum to keep moving forward?  After all,the light is green!



© 2013.  Mark J. Komen. All rights reserved worldwide