Inertia can be a terrible thing. It can keep us rooted in decisions and activities that may no longer be productive. It can keep us astride ol’ Trigger long after it has become obvious that Trig isn’t going anywhere.
For example, let’s say we launch a new product or service, but the new offering isn’t getting the acceptance in the marketplace that we had planned. We try different pricing models and different promotional efforts, but nothing seems to help. What should we do? After all, we’ve invested a lot of time, effort, and resources in this thing, right? How can we quit now?
A more practical course might be to concede that the horse is deceased, give the animal a decent burial, cut our losses, and move on.
Remember the Kenny Rogers song, “the Gambler?” “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” That’s instructive here. It would be foolish to shut down a new product or service offering at the first sign of trouble. But at some point, after we’ve used our best efforts to overcome whatever problems the market is throwing at us, we may have to make some hard-headed decisions to lick our wounds and move forward in another direction.
We often see the same behavior in personnel decisions. We don’t want to face a hiring mistake because it took a lot of time, effort and money to find this person and to get him or her trained. We tell ourselves, “We can work with this person. We can get this person turned around,” because we don’t want to lose our investment and have to start the whole hiring and training process all over again. In many cases, this causes us to waste even more time, money and effort before we finally have to face the inevitable. Again, a better solution is to concede the problem, deal with it, and move on.
Can we avoid these situations? No, we can’t. As business people, we all make decisions that do not create the results we expect. But we can defeat inertia. Before we make an investment decision . . . whether it’s an investment in people, equipment, or new products . . . we should lay out clear, measurable results we expect from this investment, and a deadline for achieving those results. And we need to determine, in advance, what action we’ll take if the expected results are not achieved by the deadline we have set. This approach takes a lot of the emotion and trauma out of the situation because we’ve mapped it all out in advance. At this point, we’re simply executing a plan designed to prevent inertia and to avoid investing more than we intended. We’re saying, “We’re prepared to invest this much in resources over this period of time. Att the end of that time, if we’re not achieving the results we expected, then we will intervene and take this corrective action.”