Many years ago, (possibly more than I care to admit) when studying change management, there was one word we were told to delete from our vocabulary – should.  From the change management perspective, there is no “should,” only “could”, “may”, “will”, and other words which convey alternatives and actions.  In life and business, too frequently we get caught up in the “should” of where we “should” be and what we “should” be doing.

We see progress in terms of “should,” and success is often constrained or undervalued as a result.  When thinking in terms of should, not could, we fail to appreciate the full spectrum of options and miss identifying the impact of each decision and the connectivity of each decision to results.

Notice All Those Pesky Should’s

Should imposes absolutes and definites rather than possibilities, objectives, and targets.  Should also sets us up for not recognizing the level of success achieved and things we need to perpetuate and replicate.  Because our “should have achieved” level isn’t reached, we tend to focus on the misses rather than the hits.  When we frame our results as if we had done things differently “our results could have been X”, our future decision-making process will incorporate the learning achieved from actual results.

Shoulds concentrate our attention on what didn’t happen rather than on what did happen.  Shoulds limit us to eliminating the failures rather than perpetuating the successes.  To add perspective, think of a startup which sets an objective of going from concept to commercialization in 18 months.  They feel they “should” be able to set up the company prove feasibility of technology and convince investors and customers to switch to this innovative new product in 547 ½ days – 18 months.  After all, it “should be obvious” why investors should invest and prospects should line up to be customers.

From Should to Could

In 18 months the startup could achieve their objective…they could hit home runs every time at bat.  They could have the most innovative, revolutionary, marketable technology ever created.  Everyone could beat a path to the door.

It could happen…they can also with the lottery, meet Ed McMahon, find buried treasure, get definitive proof of the Lock Ness Monster and get struck by lightning all on the same day.  It could happen…but the chances of every one of these “home run” events occurring within a 24 hour period would be astronomical.  If even one of these events happened it would be life altering.   Compared to a “they should all happen” expectation, none of them can measure up individually.

Objectives, targets, goals, and aggressive timelines and plans can serve as inspiration and drivers of action.  Don’t use them as full measures of whether success is achieved or as artificially imposed comparators.  Just because someone else appears to have done it a certain way, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.  It means you can, may, will…

Recognize what you have accomplished.  Set realistic expectations and timing.  Make comparison and benchmarks.  Do not undervalue your successes, even if they aren’t all home runs.  Seek to understand what worked as well as what didn’t.  Replicate successes while you eliminate the obstacles and everything may just improve.

Budgets and Business Plans – Quantifying Potential and Setting Directions

Budgets and business plans are about the potential of a business – the “could be” of the business.  In developing the business plan, financial projections, and budgets for a business, these are important considerations:

  • being realistic
  • assessing the potential of the business
  • defining the operating structure for pursuing opportunities
  • reviewing alternatives
  • evaluating options

This allows you to set a course with a business model that is about the business you are running and not about how it “should” work a certain way.

When you get caught up in the following “should” scenarios, you could be setting yourself up for failure:

  • Potential customers should be lining up at the door to do business with you.
  • Your technology should revolutionize how things are done.
  • Investors should be throwing money at your idea and company.
  • You should be able to do things your way and spend money any way you want.
  • You should not have to “obey the rules” because you know better.

One “Should” Stands

There is one “should” that does remain and is universal – ethical business practices.  Ethical businesses obey the rules not because they might get caught.  They obey the rules because they know them, and follow them because it is the right thing to do.

Copyright © 2007 F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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