The action imperative

A bias for action can be a powerful way to drive change. It can also be an excuse to stay busy; to cave into impatience, and to avoid the difficult work of gathering information, learning, and thinking. 

In The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins calls this the action imperative, describing it as, “You feel as if you need to take action, and you try too hard, too early to put your own stamp on the organization. You are too busy to learn, and you make bad decisions and catalyze resistance to your initiatives.”

It’s important to remember a bias for action is most effective when you’ve earned your team’s trust, and you also bring a lot of expertise and experience. If you’re new to the team, keep your eyes and ears open for learning. Ask questions. Learn history. 

That doesn’t mean you should hide away. Share your findings, and see if your colleagues and collaborators can confirm or challenge them. Make action plans from your findings, then bias for action.

A bias for action works best when you’ve done the work to make sure you’re taking the right actions, working with the right people, and getting your collaborators bought in. Just as important, you’ll also have decided what actions you’re not going to take, who you’re not going to work with, and what projects will have to wait till later.

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