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Bias for Action

Procrastination is the Enemy of Performance

In "A Bias for Action", Sumantra Ghoshal and Heike Bruch show that great managers produce results not by motivating others, but by engaging their own willpower through a powerful combination of energy and focus. They propose simple strategies for bolstering individual willpower and action-taking abilities, and explore ways to marshal the willpower of others to encourage collective action.

Changing Horses in the Middle of the Stream

Typical software license contract for SaaS service desk products average three years.

 

During that time, it is not uncommon for customers to feel that they have outgrown their current solution, or that they have no choice but to further invest in something that isn't a good fit for them.

If you have a year or more left on your service desk maintenance contract it is perhaps the most natural thing in the world to want to “sweat the asset” and stick with what you have, putting off the decision until later.

 

After all, you probably have plenty to do. But do you have more important things to do?

Reasons to Do Nothing

You might not be prepared to contemplate switching horses at the moment.

There are a few possible reasons for this:

  • You don’t perceive there to be a strong driver to do anything

  • Even if you did, you’ve already paid, or are committed to paying, for the support on your existing service desk software so it doesn’t seem to make any sense to pay double

  • Better the devil you know

  • You’re worried about the disruption to the productivity and culture brought on by the introduction of a new tool

  • You’re secretly worried that if you changed tools now then questions would be asked about whether you’d made the wrong choice before.

 

In some situations that might be a good choice, but there are some cases when the best solution may surprise you.

Rather than explaining via interpretive dance, we're going to choose the medium of Barnyard Fable to explain why. With apologies to Æsop.

In "A Bias for Action", Sumantra Ghoshal and Heike Bruch show that great managers produce results not by motivating others, but by engaging their own willpower through a powerful combination of energy and focus. They propose simple strategies for bolstering individual willpower and action-taking abilities, and explore ways to marshal the willpower of others to encourage collective action.

The key questions for the farmer and his wife were,

  • Was the goose actually going to lay golden eggs?

  • Would they get the support to ensure the goose kept delivering value?

  • Was there a guarantee?

  • What was the ROI?

  • Was the ROI compelling enough that dumping two years’ worth of chicken feed on the garden, and writing off that asset, became a no-brainer?

Despite their scepticism and reluctance to change tack, they tried it out and the results were compelling enough for them to abandon the chicken they previously couldn’t contemplate parting with, and write off their investment in chicken feed.

The question for you is, if you were in the farmers’ position would you wait 2 years to get the goose, or would you be pragmatic about your previous investment and start with the golden eggs as soon as possible?

We can't tell you the right answer, but bear in mind that performance efficiencies are cumulative over time, and that good leaders have a bias for action.

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