“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” Arnold H. Glasow
TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about time. Specifically, how to decide on timing for optimal execution of strategy; in other words, what is the right time for a given action?
When considering strategy, and within the paradigm of planning and execution, timing is crucial to the latter. You have to ask yourself, when do I have to act? What is the optimal time for me to achieve the outcome I desire? You may know how to act, but the question here is – when to act? The key then is deciphering how much time you have. We will quickly see that this is not always possible, and in fact, morphs into an existential question in its broadest extension – how much time do I have left? But that is for another day…
You can decipher how much time exists by deconstructing this strategic element of decision making into 3 scenarios.
1) Defined time period. This is the easy one and applies to a large share of your strategic decision making. This applies to scenarios where you have a defined timeline (e.g., decision is due in 10 days). In these instances, it is best to allocate the minimum resources to achieve the goal within that time frame. Use the time you have!
2) Undefined time period. Now it’s getting harder… With an undefined time period, you have time competition. With no known timeline, you have to allocate resources in a judicial manner to achieve your desired outcome with external time competition present. In these cases, you almost always gain an edge by executing promptly! This is more significant if you are in a novel market with possibility for a first-mover advantage – the advantage gained by the initial occupant of a market segment. If you have the possibility for technological leadership, you need to move fast!
3) Asymmetric time period. This is the most complex situation and relates to decisions with external competition as well as internal factors; it also most analogous to surgery where – at any time – there can be total destabilization forces (complications). In these instances, decision analysis has to find the “window of minimal conflict” which designates the optimal timing for execution.
For example, cataract (clouding of the natural eye lens) extraction was initially performed as “couching” where a needle was use to push the lens out of the visual axis into the back part of the eye. As you can imagine, this provides terrible visual results and was riddled with complications. This technique operated within a window of maximal conflict: you perforated the eye without a proper wound, you did not control the inflammation, and you failed to replace the refractive element of the eye. Instead, modern cataract surgery relies on proper wound construction, excellent visualization, etc. to find the right time to remove the cloudy cataract – using minimal ultrasonic energy within a stable eye – at a time of minimal conflict to achieve the best possible outcomes.
There is another benefit to operating within a window of minimal conflict. If you happen to execute the wrong decision, damage limitation and error correction are simpler. Contrastingly, high stakes – or decisions made within windows of maximum conflict – requires you to take on excess risk and need to be carefully leveraged.
Next time you have a decision, deconstruct and decipher the time window you are operating in; then, execute the right way at the right time!
MEDICINE & MACULA: Our new case, Distinguishing optic pathway glioma and retinitis pigmentosa with visual field testing, reviews the challenging issue of visual field defects in retinitis pigmentosa (an inherited retinal disease) and optic glioma (a brain cancer). It was published in Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology (Volume 51, Issue 3). Check out the study here.
GRATIS: Happy Father’s Day to all those who have served, and continue to serve, as role models and teachers. Thank you!
My best to you,