Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 12, Issue 6;   February 8, 2012: How to Foresee the Foreseeable: Recognize Haste

How to Foresee the Foreseeable: Recognize Haste

by

When trouble arises after we commit to a course of action, we sometimes feel that the trouble was foreseeable. One technique for foreseeing the foreseeable depends on recognizing haste in the decision-making process.
A portrait of Matthew Lyon, printer, farmer, soldier, politician

A portrait of Matthew Lyon (1749-1822), printer, farmer, soldier, and politician. Lyon was a colorful character. Born in Ireland, he immigrated to Connecticut in 1764. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the regiment known as the Green Mountain Boys in July 1776, and served two terms in Congress (1797-1801) as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. While serving in Congress, he was arrested, tried, and convicted for sedition in 1798 under the Alien and Sedition Acts. These acts, passed in haste from June 18, 1798, to July 14, 1798, prohibited malicious writing about the government of the United States, the Congress, or the President. Laws of this kind would seem to be directly prohibited by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which ensures freedom of speech. The Acts are now regarded as politically motivated. They were advanced by the Federalist Party, then the party in power. Being of the other party, and having made numerous enemies, Lyon was probably targeted. The Acts are now regarded as unconstitutional, though one does still remain in force. Among Rep. Lyon's many other distinctions is the fact that while imprisoned, he won reelection to Congress for a second term. Photo of a painting that now hangs in the Vermont Capitol Building, courtesy U.S. House of Representatives and the Vermont State Curator's Office.

Sometimes we're unaware that we're acting in haste, possibly because recognizing haste requires pausing to assess our condition. Still, recognizing haste is important, because haste, as they say, makes waste. But haste can do far more than make waste. Failure, bankruptcy, and threats to life and limb can follow, too, though not in every situation. Some signs of haste are obvious: the emergency meeting; sending out for dinner for everyone; or having people phone in from airports. But some signs of haste are more difficult to discern. A sampling:

Rescheduling meetings too close to deadlines
Decision quality can suffer when critical decision-making meetings are rescheduled from, say, a month before deadline to a day before the deadline. Cushioning intervals between decisions and deadlines make space for safety mechanisms.
For example, these intervals let us seek outside support such as advice, research, or references. A zero-cushion rescheduling can compel us to decide now, at the meeting, irrevocably, and that can prevent us from foreseeing the foreseeable.
Decisions require time, sometimes beyond the actual meetings at which they're drafted. Scheduling (or rescheduling) those meetings must take that time into account.
Delivering supporting exhibits late
If a decision depends on examining exhibits — documents, reports, experimental results, or other intelligence — and if delivery is late, decision makers might be unable to review the material adequately before the decision. They might be unable to grasp its full implications.
Making decisions on time despite late exhibit delivery could mean that scheduling is more valued than decision quality. In effect, to compensate for the late delivery, the decision makers are sacrificing time they need.
Determine Making decisions on time despite
late exhibit delivery could
mean that scheduling is more
valued than decision quality
in advance the minimum interval between exhibit delivery and the decision. Deciding about the minimum interval in the moment biases the group in favor of haste. Minimum intervals between deliveries and decisions might depend on the nature of the decisions.
New team member pressure
Sometimes, when new team members join a group, we feel compelled to proceed before they can become familiar with the issue at hand. Formally, the new members supposedly represent important constituencies or expertise, but that representation can be ineffective if familiarity with the immediate issue is limited.
Making group decisions with inadequate representation of important constituencies or expertise exposes the group to risk. Mere assignment to the team of someone with relevant attributes doesn't make that person capable of functioning as intended.
Establish criteria for team readiness before making critical decisions. As with exhibit delivery, the criteria might depend on the nature of the decision.

When the stakes are high, and both speed and decision quality are essential, lean toward quality. Make an agreement in your group that once the signs of haste are acknowledged, you'll take previously agreed-upon steps to limit the errors that haste can facilitate. Accept that you might have to decide in haste, but if you do, do it with eyes open.  Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: How to Foresee the Foreseeable: Focus on the Question  Next Issue

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenGVlDjnDPUoVdaqbIner@ChacdjfvmDDieVpctnYYoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

View of Mt. St. HelensOwn Your Space
Since we spend so much of our waking lives in our offices, it's surprising how few of us take control of our immediate surroundings. If you do — if you make your space uniquely yours — you'll feel better about the time you spend at work.
The Mars Climate Orbiter, which was lost in 1999Ten Reasons Why You Don't Always Get What You Measure: I
One of the "truisms" floating around is that "You get what you measure." Belief in this assertion has led many to a metrics-based style of management, but the results have been uneven at best. Why?
Winslow Homer's painting, BlackboardFill in the Blanks
When we conceal information about ourselves and our areas of responsibility, we make room for others to speculate. Speculation is rarely helpful. It's wise to fill in the blanks.
A centrifugal governorSixteen Overload Haiku
Most of us have some experience of being overloaded and overworked. Many of us have forgotten what it is not to be overloaded. Here's a contemplation of the state of overload.
The Messerschmitt Me 262, which was the first jet fighter to fly in combatHow to Foresee the Foreseeable: Preferences
When people collaborate on complex projects, the most desirable work tends to go to those with highest status. When people work alone, they tend to spend more time on the parts of the effort they enjoy. In both cases, preferences rule. Preferences can lead us astray.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Problem Solving and Creativity for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York CityComing August 23: Look Where You Aren't Looking
Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve our ability to prepare for adverse events? Available here and by RSS on August 23.
"The Thinker," by Auguste RodinAnd on August 30: They Just Don't Understand
When we cannot resolve an issue in open debate, we sometimes try to explain the obstinacy of others. The explanations we favor can tell us more about ourselves than they do about others. Available here and by RSS on August 30.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenquwiuWullNHObkVsner@ChaciudtPfUdyysLLMWmoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here are some dates for this program:

Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.