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Just Do Something

April 16, 2012

One of my first introductions to strategy involved one of our best “strategic” executives presenting to the executive staff (and other hangers-on, like little young me).  After nearly a half hour of beachhead mapping, Porter models, and other analysis tools, our CEO (the always-entertaining Andy Grove) slammed the table and said something to the effect of, “Will you please shut up and <bleeping> do something?”

It was a great introduction to me of what really matters in strategy: make a move and decide the direction based on the consequences.  By doing so, you’ve put the company in motion, and you’re farther along then when you started.  But — and I say this as a guy who’s been planning products for years — just thinking about what to do without going into action results in the wrong kind of inertia.

Reason Mag pointed me to this WSJ article that makes that point hit home.  Witness the tale of two tornados.

In Joplin, [Missouri,] eight of 10 affected businesses have reopened, according to the city’s Chamber of Commerce, while less than half in Tuscaloosa[, Alabama,] have even applied for building permits, according to city data we reviewed. Walgreens revived its Joplin store in what it calls a “record-setting” three months. In Tuscaloosa, a destroyed CVS still festers, undemolished. Large swaths of Tuscaloosa’s main commercial thoroughfares remain vacant lots, and several destroyed businesses have decided to reopen elsewhere, in neighboring Northport.

And why did one town so successfully use a can-do attitude while another languished?

The reason for Joplin’s successes and Tuscaloosa’s shortcomings? In Tuscaloosa, officials sought to remake the urban landscape top-down, imposing a redevelopment plan on businesses. Joplin took a bottom-up approach, allowing businesses to take the lead in recovery….

Ah.  So the “planners” decided to make the plan perfect rather than just let the city rebuild on its own terms.  The result is a perpetual state of planning, where “just do something”  makes for a faster recovery.  I can understand a desire to rebuild a town with new capabilitiy or an improved infrastructure, but what happens if that stalls the progress elsewhere?  Clearly there’s a strong need to stop thinking and instead allow people to do stuff while momentum is on your side.

For a similar story, check the weekend story in Hot Air about a restaurant that suffered as the street outside was reconfigured to support a light rail line that didn’t even really stop at the block.  I’m not against progress.  In fact, I think we need to find ways to enable business to progress even in the face of change.  But we need to do, not think about doing.

So stop reading and go do something.  We’ll all feel better.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Lynn Comp permalink*
    April 16, 2012 5:19 pm

    hmm. This seems to make a case to get out of organizations that comprise of nothing more than talking brains in a jar (or on a stick). Oh, wait.

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