Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leadership as contingency planning, and navigating decision timeframes

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 21, 2014

I have recurringly returned to the issues and questions of leadership, and of leadership best practices in this blog, and continue that ongoing pattern here with this posting. My thought is that leadership might be part science and reducible to standardized processes and explanations, but effective leadership and certainly inspiring leadership is an art too that has to mesh smoothly and supportively with the specific business and its contexts, and with its employees – with the needs and personalities and approaches of those who would follow, and also with the personality and skills set of the would-be leader too. With all of these as sources of variability as to what would constitute good let alone best practices leadership, simply algorithmic “do this then do that” formulas cannot suffice. So I have been writing this occasional and ongoing, loosely organized series on leadership on the basis of my own hands-on experience and on the basis of working with and observing, and learning from others. And my hope is that I include in this growing set at least something that might resonate with as close to anyone seeking leadership skills, as I could possibly manage.

I began thinking about and planning for this installment with a goal of shedding perhaps a little more light on the issues of:

• Finding a balance between planning with its potential for delays and moving more directly to execution where speed can mean capturing opportunity only available for brief periods.

Timing can seem to be everything. If you do the right things but too early for others to be able to follow through on them effectively and without preparation opportunity on their part, your timing is going to be consequentially off. If you do the right things, but too late and after the opportunities they would address have passed, or too late for your employees to be able to make use of what you do, then your timing is going to also be consequentially off.

A big part of this is a matter of timing, but if you only follow or plan and prepare for one possible line of circumstances and consequences, your decision making process is going to be very rigid and fragile, subject to disruption from anything unexpected. And with time, that is going to guarantee timing problems and on both the early and late sides on your part. So this posting is actually about contingency planning, and that means thinking through and understanding strategically, where you need to be flexible operationally.

A simple answer to that challenge, that I add can be misleading because it is in fact an essential part of any meaningful answer, is executive team strategic planning as based upon an ongoing awareness of strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats (a standard or perhaps a modified and customized SWOT analysis.) But ultimately, if you are the chief executive officer and the most senior responsible strategic decision maker, you have to make crucial final decisions here – and at times even when leading a more egalitarian organization. Someone has to be there who can break ties and make decisions out of disagreements, if nothing else. And this brings me back to contingency planning, that when you do make decisions and when you have to do so, you at least have a good, meaningful range of options and opportunities that you can chose from, and both for timing and for what would be done according to the timeframe decided upon.

I offer this quick note as yet another contribution to this by now relatively lengthy and loosely organized series, simply acknowledging that I am certain to add more to it. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

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