08/11/2010

By Andrew Lester

Procrastination is a major choker on business growth. Procrastination has many root causes. However whatever the reasons, the procrastination of others is very frustrating to work with and is often very dangerous.

It’s a bit like driving behind a slow vehicle on a twisting road when you’re in a hurry. You really want to overtake but the conditions won’t allow it, so you sit there getting more frustrated until in the end you can’t stand it any longer and go for it. Was the space big enough?.... hopefully.... but the risk was very high and the pressure remains....I’ve got to catch back the lost time.

Procrastination is not just an inability to make decisions. It is also manifests itself as an inability to define the issue correctly, to identify who is best suited to solve the issue, or to co-ordinate effectively the actions of the team. Procrastination is incredibly wasteful of resources and team enthusiasm. And it is often this last piece that many SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) owners and directors fail to recognise.
Delaying taking good quality decisions, saps the capability of the whole team. It slows down the pace at which the business could and should operate. In ever-moving markets, the ability to be nimble, to predict and act quickly is a hallmark of successful companies.

Growth happens through taking good quality decisions. Balanced decisions, using the right amount of data, insight and experience. However for many people growth is itself scary and unsettling. As a result people are often uncomfortable with change and put off making any decisions that aren’t obvious. It is vitally important to the long term success of any company to actively manage both the day job and growth, and all too often it is decisions about growth that are put in the “all too difficult” box and held over for another day.

A real example: We worked for a sales organisation that was going through a period of change as it amalgamated roles and responsibilities from previously separate departments. Procrastination was there for all to see.

Anything that required people to work outside of their comfort zone was a direct target for procrastination — no matter who was involved. It was crystal clear from the activities that were completed. During this period of change the one thing that everyone did on time was their expenses. This may not be surprising were it not for the fact that prior to the changes taking place, expenses were not generally completed on time. In talking to the team it became obvious: they did their expenses because it was an activity that was productive and easy to do in a time of uncertainty and change. In effect they were procrastinating on the changes that would deliver growth and which required them to think more deeply about their actions. If this impact can be felt and seen so easily throughout an organisation, just think what can be achieved by tackling it head on.

Please feel free to comment by contacting me: andrewlester@carr-michael.com. Andrew Lester is Managing Partner of Carr-Michael Consulting, specialists in growth management and business performance improvement.


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