How Safe is a Safe Pair of Hands?

Published June 1, 2016 by monika

When things feel uncertain, it’s easy to veer towards the safe option in decision-making:

  • don’t take too many risks

  • don’t be too bold

  • don’t offend anyone

  • don’t try anything too different

  • don’t rock the boat

  • don’t be controversial

  • don’t make too much noise

You can continue this list yourself. You can see how it can quickly turn into a restrictive list that stops you from actually achieving anything too.

If you take risks, you can lose everything. Nobody wants to make the decision that could lose your share-holders money, or that could result in redundancies, or in bankruptcy. No-one wants to be the person who signed off on the action that causes endless crisis management.

But the important thing in impact management is to look at both sides of the risk. How can you manage risk so that you don’t stagnate? What is happening to those organisations who are not taking any risks? Are they thriving, or going under a little more slowly? Is the decline you fear coming anyway?

One organisation I worked with had previously turned round the company from the brink of bankruptcy around 8 years earlier. They had successfully engaged on a strategy that improved sales and improved staff morale and created a thriving atmosphere. However, that was once again steadily on the decline. What became interesting was the complete resistance by the senior leadership team to engage in any new activity. They clung to their strategy that had turned the place around. It is easy to understand why. Without their intervention the doors would have been closed years ago. It felt like the safe, and the only option to make sure things stayed the same. But situations are not static. Customers, audiences, participants, service users change. Situations change. The big picture changes. The winning strategy nearly a decade earlier was not going to be the winning strategy now.

Sometimes when you analyse your current position, and your idea to move things forward, or to hurdle over a barrier, it becomes very clear that playing it safe is the most dangerous action to take.