If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
This is how we’ve always done it.
Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.
What do these sayings all have in common? They are survival mechanisms dressed up as wisdom.
This is fascinating.
Procrastination is essentially an old-western showdown between the limbic system (which is tasked with keeping you alive) and the prefrontal cortex (which allows you to thrive). And in this good ol’ shootout, the limbic system is the reigning champ.
Your limbic system keeps you alive by telling you to do things like staying away from the unknown (so you don’t walk off a cliff) and saving your calories (so you don’t starve between meals). Exploring new ideas and possibilities violates both of these survival mechanisms. So when the opportunity to change presents itself, your limbic system automatically starts firing warning lights. It is unconscious and automatic, and incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, it is also a bit daft.
Your limbic system can’t really tell the difference between real and perceived threats. For example, if your organization has only ever sold blue widgets and someone suggests adding (or heaven forbid switching to) pink widgets. Your limbic system starts screaming, “Death is on the line” (Cue the scene from the Princess Bride). But there are no cliffs in your office. And there are enough snacks to keep you alive for a very long time.
So you’re sitting in your chair with your limbic warning lights aglow, and you say, “Let’s stick with what we know works.” The warning lights then turn off, and order is restored in the form of a chemical release in your brain that says job well done.
Another victory for the limbic system.
This is happening every day in your organization
While this is going on in your brain, the same thing is happening with everyone else. The result is that most organizations keep doing what has worked in the past regardless if it is best for their future. And that is the opposite strategy that you need to attain or sustain or even regain Predictable Success.
You typically get to and stay in Predictable Success by regularly doing what you didn’t do before (and maybe even the opposite of what you did before).
Sometimes you need to add more systems and processes. Sometimes you need to pare it back.
Sometimes you need to take new risks. Sometimes you need to double down and stick to the risks you’ve already taken.
Sometimes you need to push the gas pedal. Sometimes you need to hit the brakes.
You get the point.
So if Predictable Success is achieved by doing all of these opposites, how could you possibly know what you need to do now?
By mastering the art of Key Transitions.
We do this by firing up the organization’s (more accurately, the leaders’) prefrontal cortex, so we can logically assess, plan, and implement change when appropriate and BEFORE it becomes a real threat to the organization.
And there are five specific steps to do just that:
- Engage in pro-active strategic analysis
- Identify upcoming key transitions
- Pre-determine internal implications
- Establish the VOPS Impact
- Build your Key Transition Plan
What if I don’t?
If you don’t manage Key Transitions properly, the success you are experiencing will be short-lived. Your inertia as an organization will either pull you back into Whitewater. Where you’re at the mercy of the river and survival truly is at stake.
Or you’ll drift forward into Treadmill. And the real tragedy of Treadmill is that you don’t realize that the organization’s entire future is on the line.
In either case, the strategy your brain is using to keep your organization safe is the very strategy that will cause its safety to be threatened. This can turn into a vicious self-reinforcing cycle.
But it also offers a clear way out. And that’s what we will examine through this three-part series.
Click here for the next article.
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