The Time Traveling Manager
“Time is but a stream I go a fishin in.” — Henry David Thoreau
Have you ever watched a movie or TV show about time travel? Some of my favorites are "Avengers - End Game," “The Time Machine,” “Final Countdown,” “The Terminator,” “Back to the Future,” “Groundhog Day,” “Frequency,” and the list goes on.
I like time travel movies because they always get you thinking and asking questions about the possibilities. Does the “butterfly effect” really happen? Does every event in the past have an effect on the future? Can a person co-exist with themselves in the past?
What kind of effect would the decisions I made in the past have on me and all those around me in the future? And if I went back and changed those decisions, what kind of effect would they have on the areas surrounding the decisions, and the peripheral things not even associated with those decisions? Wow, figure that one out!
It’s fun and interesting to think about the decisions we’ve made in the past and if we could go back in time, which ones we would change. And what kind of effect the change would have on our and the future, and why we would change them?
Let’s look at “why” for a second. Why would we change our decisions? The main reason to change the decision is to change the outcome. The belief is that if we had made a different decision, the outcome would have been better for us, or others.
What about business decisions? What if you, as a business owner/CEO/leader/manager, could go back in time and change a decision or series of decisions that you made. What decisions would you change? How would you go about deciding how you would change the decision? Why would you change those decisions?
As a business owner/CEO/leader/manager, you make decisions about your business pertaining to products/services, personnel, marketing, sales, operations, and customers. In some cases, you probably make 100 decisions a day that affect some or all parts of your business. In hindsight, you probably regret some of those decisions and wish you could go back and make different ones. But as you’re thinking about those decisions, also think about the why? Again, obviously, because you want to change the outcome. But is changing the outcome for the good of the business or for the good of you?
As fun as it is to think about that, the fact is that you can’t! So let’s deal with the decisions you’ve made. The ones you would like to be able to change. What do you do about those? You have some choices –
Blame someone else for the decision.
Blame someone else for the implementation of the decision.
Pretend the decision was never made.
Ignore the decision and move on.
Never talk about the decision again.
Make another decision to fix the first decision.
Review the outcome of the decision and try to fix the things that didn’t work.
Admit the decision was a bad one and learn from the mistake.
Make sure everyone knows that the decision was a good one, but the implementation, environment, or the planets not being in alignment is the blame for the outcome.
You can’t change the decisions you’ve made. They’re gone. As soon as you made the decision and moved toward implementing the decision, the present quickly moved to the past. However, you can change specific things about the outcome and can salvage good things from a bad decision by following these five simple rules:
Don’t run away from your decision – Own it. You made the decision. It didn’t turn out as you would have hoped, but the decision was made and you take total accountability for all aspects of it.
Don’t blame others or other things for your decision – If the decision was not implemented properly, then the planning, direction, and communication from you left something to be desired. You are all in this together. The “others” in this case are the ones who support your decisions and help you make better ones. Blaming them will only deteriorate morale and support.
Don’t make another bad decision – Trying to fix a bad decision with another bad decision doesn’t work. Without reviewing the outcome and data associated with the decision, trying to make a quick fix can just lead to a worse situation.
Don’t abandon the decision until you have to – What’s the success criteria of the decision? Until you’ve clearly reached that point, don’t abandon the decision. It’s okay to make adjustments, tweaks, changes to keep moving in the right direction.
Don’t walk away from the decision without learning something – If you end up abandoning the decision because the outcome was not within the success criteria, then find out why. Was it the idea? Was it the implementation? Was it the plan? Was it due to outside influences? The more you learn, the better the decision the next time out.
As the owner/CEO/leader/manager, you are paid to make decisions. All of those little boxes under you on the organization chart are expecting you to make decisions and, in many cases, they don’t care whether it appears to be a good or bad decision. They just want a decision to be made.
You know what. The future is not now. The present is now. The decisions you make in the present will impact the future. Make the best ones you possibly can and instead of hoping that someday you may be able to go back and change some of those decisions, own them, learn from them, seek help and advice to make good ones, and be ready to make the next one.