Ambiguity Impacts Action

Yesterday I overheard a customer ask a young sales clerk about her plans for school. She replied that she was majoring in arts until she could get a handle on what she wants to do with her life.

With a deep sigh the young woman went on to say, “There are just so many options”.

While I don’t plan to go back to school this year, I too often flounder as the result of the many options that present themselves to me each day on my never ending to-do list. Even though I know it is somewhat irrational, I sometimes put things on the list even though I’ve already done them, just so I have something to cross off.

As with any other kind of planning, some items on my list are straightforward and easy to check off, whereas others are far more complex. No one will be surprised to learn that generally it is the complex items on the list that I’m more apt to ignore.

This is a significant learning to absorb when developing strategies and action plans for organizations, businesses, or even entire communities. Quite simply, when directions aren’t clear, the items on the to-do list don’t get done. As a rule, we humans don’t like ambiguity. When there are too many options or things are too complex, we move into overload mode and stall.

This means effective leaders need to work really hard at making things simple.  Simplicity begets action.

We live in a complex and often chaotic world. If our direction is not clear, decision-making is hampered. Despite the best of intentions, we might just head in the wrong direction, lose our sense of initiative, or place too much emphasis on gathering more research and studies to reduce the ambiguity.

Albert Einstein addressed this need for simplicity with his “Three Rules of Work”. The first rule was “Out of clutter find simplicity”; “From discord find harmony”; and in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Simplicity is the leader’s responsibility – both for themselves and for their organization, business, or community. If you want clear and simple strategies and action plans, make sure the vision and outcomes are clear, ensure open and honest communication, and minimize distractions and diversions that could get in the way and detract from clear thinking and simple action. Keep reinforcing the key priorities, because if everything is important, nothing is important. Do fewer things but do them really well. 

Ensure the strategies and action plans are written down, reviewed on a regular basis, and assigned with deadlines attached. Think about the action plans as a to-do list for each strategy. Ensure they have the potential to be achievable within the next year, build on strengths, address challenges, and capitalize on opportunities.

If you want to see the successful implementation of strategy and action plans you also need to ensure they are supported with people, resources, time, systems, and above all, communication.
Communicate the plan to everyone involved. Hold monthly or quarterly strategy meetings to report on the progress that has taken place, and to adapt to changes in the environment.

Strategies and action plans need to be seen as a work-in-progress. It doesn’t have to be perfect or 100 percent complete. Think of it instead as making a list and determining priorities. Easy peasy. 

Posted on 09-12-10


I really needed to hear this today. Thanks, Brenda! Hope you’re doing well.

•Posted by Jen  on  09/14/10  at  08:58 AM

Add your Comment here:






Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below:

Next entry: Just Google It Daddy

Previous entry: I Didn’t Really Want to Go