Road Sign or Ambulance!
We have been contemplating the ways we have seen employees respond to the consequences of a decision and the imminent resulting risk. We have noted these responses and know that there are at least two categories of response, Road Sign or Ambulance.
Road sign people focus on moving the organization to a better place by “heading off” the consequences of a poor or errant decision. They are more circumspect. Road sign people believe the company wastes money and places the organization at unnecessary risk by taking a direction that has a low probability of success. Road sign people would rather see a better decision be made and avoid as many of the problems or risks associated with a poor decision altogether. They see the waste in time, money, and material to take a poor course of action and believe it is better to solve the problem before there is a problem. They expend considerable energy trying to evoke the best decision possible, not wait but put better decisions into the discussion then execute. Picking a poor decision does not help advance the organization’s objectives. If a poor decision is made against their counsel, they are loathed to clean up the mess they knew was going to happen by taking the selected course of action after expending so much energy to improve the decision in the first place.
Ambulance people will point out the malady of the decision, and they will counsel a direction away from that decision however, they will take only mild actions toward moving the organization away from the poor decision. Instead will make sure they have documented their counsel and will march toward the direction indicated even if that decision is folly. At the end of the day, they will rush to the problems resulting from the decision. Ambulance people are able to allow the project or activity to “hit the wall” and will clean up the mess – keeping a documentation trail absolving them of any implication in the decision.
A mix of both of these approaches or personality types is probably helpful in achieving the organization’s objectives. Rather than muzzle those road sign people who try to get us to see the limitations and sometimes even folly of the decision, we should embrace them to drive us to the best solutions.