Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Should We Do This? (A Framework)

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

I’ve worked for several complex and complicated organizations with a history of FOMO. Past leadership had great hearts and bold faith. They set out to do as much good in as many areas as possible. Any time we set out with a mindset of “as much for as many” you end up in a hard place. Like an interior design with multiple color palettes, there’s too much going on. The attempt to “do it all” results in difficulty doing anything. At least doing anything well.

If you’re already at in the difficult terrain of organizational complexity, you should probably get help (Call me. I know a guy…)

But if you’re starting out, there’s a way to avoid this territory.

Use a simple framework of placing decisions on a mission and values grid. (Yes, another XY chart. I love these.)

Mission: This is why you exist and defines the way you’re going to change the world around you. This guides direction.

Values: These are the stated principles by which you operate your organization (or live your life). These guide behavior.

Now we have a framework for “Should we do this new project”?

Never

Doesn’t fit our mission or values? Never. That simple. Don’t do it. Don’t waste time discussing whether we should do it. It’s not who we are. It’s not where we want to go. It’s astounding to me often boards not only discuss projects in this quadrant but agree to move forward with them. Don’t do it. Anything that doesn’t align with your mission or your stated values gets an automatic and resounding “no”.

Probably Not

It’s in keeping with our stated values, but doesn’t really move our mission forward? Probably not. There could be a rare exception in this quadrant. But I’d lean to “no” in almost every case because changing direction is a serious course of action for any organization and leads to unnecessary complexity.

Maybe

It’s the direction we want to go, but it’s not necessarily according to the stated principles by which we set out to operate. I call that a maybe - in the same way my Mom would give me a “maybe” when she didn’t want to give an immediate “no” and crush my little boy dreams. If your organization has clarified your values well, then it’s a “no”. But behavior can flex a little more than direction - especially in an organization’s early stages. It’s possible to realize a value that might have been there in the beginning. It’s still a cautious “maybe”. But this quadrant warrants further exploration and discussion.

Yes

A new project that aligns with your organization’s mission and core values is a green light.

But that green light moves the project to a different question.

We’ve just answered, “should we?” If you get to “yes”, you have to ask the next question.

Could we?
This is a different set of criteria.