The Do Nothing Alternative

The business owners, entrepreneurs, and executives I know started out with a desire to help people solve problems. Whether it’s designing a new transit station, or building a new factory, engineers and contractors are in the solution business.

Getting their ideas and solutions to key decision makers can be a real grind. It takes a lot of time and talent to develop workable solutions to business problems. Usually there is more than one way to get the desired outcome. Using an alternative analysis is how project managers choose how they’re going to approach a project.

Alternative analyses are a common form of determining the best solution to a business problem. Included in the alternatives is the “do nothing” alternative. This is one I encounter often when coaching clients.

Here’s an example. Your company has been losing money for more than a year. The January numbers show more losses. You decide to “give it a few more months and see if we can turn this thing around.”

Is this a knowing lie, or way to save face? Do we really believe that the passage of time will improve the business results?

Sometimes we know we are speaking falsehoods. But sometimes we have convinced ourselves that what we are saying is true. Perhaps the client wanted a successful business so much that he actually believed more time would make a difference.

Choosing the do nothing alternative was a way to make himself feel better. He knew that he had to make changes, but the thought of doing it was overwhelming. So, he decided to avoid taking action to avoid the discomfort that comes with change.

How often do you tell defer taking actions that will move your business forward? The do nothing alternative is a choice. In this example, one made despite overwhelming evidence that more time means more losses.

Allowing more time to pass can be a useful technique when trying to heal from a painful loss. But in business the do nothing alternative causes more pain and more losses. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are steps you can take to l help you push past the thoughts and discomfort that make the do  nothing alternative attractive.

Be honest with yourself. Create a list of irrational thoughts about the business that fill your mind. Read out loud and have a good laugh at how clever you are. Then, consider how costly these lies are and commit to the truth.

Pinpoint the difference between reality and fantasy. Consider when you’re most likely to lie to yourself about the business or the desired change you want to make. Maybe you do okay with trusted advisors but lie to yourself when confronted by staff. Or vice versa. Maybe stress exacerbates the dishonesty.

Consider other alternatives. Develop a list of 10 things you can do right now that would change the outcome. For example, cut costs, reduce staff, improve your bids and proposals. Rank these in order of impact and commit to completing within 30 days.

Engage others. Get a reality check from your employees and trusted advisors. This is a time to lean into discomfort in order to get a desired outcome. No one person can do it all alone. Share the responsibility and accountability within the team.

Consider coaching. My client “Julia” is a sales executive who was adamantly opposed to coaching. After 10 years with her company, she had a wealth of knowledge, but her boss believed she wasn’t using all of her skills and abilities effectively. He recommended coaching.

Julia had a stack of “do nothing” alternatives that were holding her back from getting better results. After two months of coaching, her time management improved and she began implementing all the creative ideas she had been reluctant to use. She increased her sales by 30 percent, got a raise, and reconnected with the joy of helping clients solve problems.

You can use the same solutions-based approach to your business that you provide your clients. Begin considering all the alternatives. If the do nothing alternative is your choice, challenge yourself to review the facts first. If the facts don’t support more time, ask yourself what business result more time will provide. Decide to do something today that will improve your business. Let’s talk about the alternatives.  Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

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