How often it happens – perhaps to you too. Things cannot continue the way they are… you realize it and you’re frustrated… you complain and get angry… but to no avail. Over time nothing changes. We see it so often. Our advice: when you come to a fork in the road, take it! In this insight we’ll explain how to recognize the (business and personal) situations where this applies; why it’s often so difficult to act; and how to go about it.
A couple of examples first. All situations we encounter so often. You might recognize some of them: organizations where the interactions between the head office and the local entities are deteriorating day after day; companies in a changing business environment that are suffering to get the same results as before; departments where employees are getting more and more demotivated; executives who get nervous because they realize their job is doomed to disappear; managers that are continuously overloaded with work and it is starting to cost them a lot; …
How to know you are at a fork in the road
Here are a couple of indicators to help you identify whether your situation requires ‘taking a forkroad’:
- The current way of doing things is ineffective
- You know things cannot continue the way they are
- The situation has started to ‘consume you’
- It has led to worsened relationships
- You have tried many ‘quick fixes’, but they don’t work
Why it often proves so difficult to act
Too busy with the short term
Let’s take a couple of our examples. The executive who is overloaded with work is probably so much focused on achieving results NOW that he has no time to take a step back. The company with deteriorating results in a changing business environment, might be so busy focusing on achieving their short term targets, that they have no time left to think about long term strategy.
Not understanding the underlying issue
In the example above of the ‘bad relationship’ between head office and local entities, both parties might be completely focused on ‘how disappointing and unprofessional the other party is’ – without realizing how the system contributes to the problem. The department with the demotivated employees might not understand that its people are lost because the environment has changed and their previous mission is not accepted anymore by the rest of the company.
Not identifying the options to choose amongst
In the example of head office and local entities it might be necessary to make a clear choice between a ‘centralised model’ or a ‘decentralised model’. In the example of the struggling company, it might be necessary to decide ‘will we really embrace technology x or won’t we? ’. For the department that needs to clarify its mission, the choice might be ‘are we an internal consultant? Or are we an incubator?’
Not daring to decide
The executive whose job is doomed to disappear might be scared of acting (because once people find out, he might lose his job even quicker). The manager who is overloaded with work might be scared of working less (because she would never forgive herself if the consequences were negative…)’
How to go about it
Based on the above, we would suggest 4 questions to ask yourself when you realize you are probably at a fork in the road:
- How sustainable is this situation? What will happen if we don’t act?
- What’s the underlying issue? What might have contributed to the problem?
- What are the options to choose amongst? What needs to be clarified?
- What blocks me from acting? Where might it be necessary to reprioritize my values?
It often proves helpful to get a facilitator for these discussions. In order to have the necessary neutrality in the discussion, and to help ‘emerge what has to emerge’.