When in Doubt, Act

by Andy Kaufman on March 27, 2012

Measure twice, cut once.”

That’s how I was raised. In fact, by nature I’m more of a “measure it five times just to make sure” kind of guy.

There’s a saying something to the effect of, “Anyone who has taken a shower has had a great idea. The question is: what do they do once they step out of the shower?”

Ever watched a new product roll out and say, “Hey, I thought of that years ago! I should have….”

Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda. We’ve all been there.

I’m excited about a new book out by Leonard Schlesinger, Charles Kiefer, and Paul Brown entitled Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future. This esteemed group of leaders and innovators share their formula for leading and delivering in a world that is a whole lot less predictable than our typical planning process accommodates for.

A key message: When in doubt, act. 

Their “CreAction” process reminds me of Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. Certainly anyone who’s looked ambiguity in the eye realizes that they can put a plan together but the plan never goes as, well, planned! That’s why PDCA is so powerful: we plan, take action, but assume the plan won’t work so we monitor progress and react and re-plan accordingly.

In Just Start, the authors’ version could be summarized as Act-Learn-Build-Repeat. Beyond the seemingly simple process, they lay out a compelling case with great examples for how the Act-Learn-Build-Repeat mindset can spur us on to progress and success.

The approach espoused in the book aligns well with the PMBOK Guide’s concept of progressive elaboration and with agile project management (which has at it’s core the realization that change is not just to be tolerated–it’s how good ideas turn into reality).

This isn’t a call for “Skip the measuring and just start cutting!”  But too often, we sit there and talk about what we want to build instead taking action. This is a book that can give us all the nudge we need to take action on that next great idea we get in the shower!

Before buying the book, check out this HBR article by the authors.  Then get your copy of the book.

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