Anticipating the Shark Bait Problem

Recently our friends embarked on a summer vacation to celebrate a 50th birthday with family.  Since one of those friends always wanted to try surfing, they booked a week in a beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, known for its tasty waves, abundant sunshine, and (my personal favorite) an unprecedented number of shark attacks.

In preparation for spending hours floating on a board and looking like a sluggish, wounded seal, they studied up on the best way to minimize the risk of an attack.  Experts say that those that wish to avoid problems like becoming Jaw’s next meal should stay away from warm water, piers, and common fishing grounds.  We are also warned to keep an eye out for warning signs, such as flocks of birds fishing in the surf, and bait fish jumping out of the water as if they are being chased by something large and toothy.

Their landlocked friends called them crazy to even think of getting into the water.  But their research gave them a sense of control over the situation, which turned into confidence and many joyful experiences during the week. Then, on the last day a tiny triangle appeared above the surf about a hundred yards away.  Was it a dolphin?  A small whale?  When the fin popped up a few more times, someone made a suggestion:

“How about a sand castle building contest?!?”

Pure genius.

Because this is how it goes in our organizations.  We get excited about a new plan and commit to a course of action.  When obstacles appear, we develop contingency plans.  No matter the risk, we draw energy from moving forward to see the project through to completion.  The hard part is, we can become so blinded by the idea of completion that we fail to get out of the water when disaster is imminent.

If you are leading an initiative, here are some tips to avoid common pitfalls during the execution phase.

  1. Identify Potential Risks– Even though it can stifle enthusiasm, simply ask people to identify “What Could Go Wrong” and assess how likely and serious those problems could be.
  2. Develop Minimizing and Preventive Actions – It’s easy to think of what we’ll do if the problems occur, but there is immense value in identifying actions you can take to prevent the problems in the first place.
  3. Know When To Get Out Of The Water – Too often our organizations fall victim to the Sunk Cost Trap, hanging on to poor solutions just because so much time and energy has been invested in their success.  Before implementing, identify what signs would indicate that it’s time to pull the plug and try something different.

At Action Management, we have been helping clients implement successful programs for nearly forty years. If you would like to assure your next project doesn’t turn into shark bait give us a call at 800-386-5611.  We would love to help!

























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