Rather Be Lucky than Good – Really?

“I would rather be lucky than good.” I can no longer even smile at that throwaway phrase I hear way too often. The problem is that it is impossible to be consistently lucky. You might have been lucky with early business success, but that success will fade with bad decisions.

Consistent business success requires consistent good decision-making. It takes work, attention, and focus to make good decisions. Engaging in effective planning procedures is the only way I know of to make consistently good decisions. We know we do not get it right the first time. What makes a difference is how quickly the errors are perceived and corrections made. And, because the world is constantly changing, what is correct today will be wrong tomorrow, so the process must be ongoing.

My last four posts have been about the strategic planning cycle – share values, set goals, have appropriate decision-making groups formulate actions to reach goals, execute the actions, monitor the results, and revise the plan as appropriate. The idea is to encourage people to plan by describing the planning process and how it helps to create good decisions (the key factor in business success). I do that realizing that most people do not plan, and few will start planning after reading what I say. Of course, those few who do decide to plan make it possible to continue to do what I do.

This musing brings up a curious matter of human nature that has always mystified me. Most people faced with the work of planning end up going forward without a plan. I am convinced there is more to this than laziness, although that is an undeniable factor. Even in large organizations where structures are in place to force strategic planning, the employees who plan for the company often do not plan in their personal lives.

I have seen a number of other factors that contribute to a failure to plan, and I elaborate on the most common. There often is a lack of understanding regarding group decision-making, which is often related to conceit or arrogance on the part of the owners. These owners often have convinced themselves that they alone possess the capability to make decisions about the business and therefore fail to consult important management and operational people involved in the business. These owners also are the ones who fail to monitor the actions taken to meet goals and are slow to see necessary corrections. Group-decision making is effective when the right people make the decision about the right thing at the right time. Seeing those elements and that synergy is difficult if you are convinced that you are the only one capable of making decisions about the business. This is not a delegation of authority – there is a governance aspect to making decisions and typically there is a designated decision-maker. The decision reached, though, should be the product of group deliberation. It is not unusual to see owners making a poor risk analysis and giving time priority to matters which are urgent but not important (often involving a failure to delegate). Inability to manage time effectively often leads to comments such as I have no time to plan. Another factor is making planning a much greater task than it has to be. Planning, once established as a policy, should not be a narrative in a three-ring notebook on a shelf. Planning should be communicated on a format that supports communication between all elements of the business. This is dynamic planning, which allows the planning cycle to proceed with agility.

So I would tell you, “Be good, not lucky.” Eliminate the risk of bad results as much as possible by planning on a dynamic basis with a format that communicates the right information to the right people at the right time. Share values and set goals. Use group decision-making to formulate actions that meet the goals. Monitor the results and revise as needed. This is dynamic decision-making done consistently and resulting in consistently good decisions – and more importantly, making changes as they need to be made. If you have trouble understanding why you do not plan, prioritize the search for the reason why and make appropriate corrections. I can help.