The cost of words

Published 5/8/2023

We see leaders with big ideas they want to be executed immediately, but we don't see many who consider the total cost of the change before announcing their new idea in the latest company meeting.

As a leader, there is a cost to your words.

The price you pay for jumping the gun

There's the obvious cost if there's a new technology or craft to employ, but then there's the productivity and culture cost that can come with teams having to drop what they were already doing to context-switch to the new idea.

Your people want to please you, so if you ask them to stop what they are doing they will most likely do just that, regardless of the impact on what they were already working on.

Why a quick context-switch won’t work

People are like single-threaded computers, they can only hold the context of one 'program' at a time.

If you ask a single-threaded computer to close a program and load another one, it will dump all the memory (context) of the first program and you’ll have to wait to load information about the new program into memory before you can use it.

If you ask a team to stop working on what they're already partway through, they will have to put the context of their existing work aside and start to comprehend the new idea you've just given them. In more complex cases, this will result in the team members involved in a project sitting idle waiting for the researcher/team lead to understand and explain how they will deliver the new idea before they can execute on it.

Leaders need to be careful what they say in the company of others and think about the effect on their teams, and all other downstream teams. People are complicated; their feelings of satisfaction, or dissatisfaction have to be taken into account because their mental state will affect their ability to deliver.

A more considered approach

Often leaders fall short on validating whether the action(s) they’re taking, or need to take, are actually the right thing to do to move them closer towards the outcomes they want in their business. Your company needs a structured validation process, a clear initiative roadmap that you can articulate to your employees, and a transparent approach to communicating strategy, deliverables and progress.

Validate your idea

Validating takes both quantitative and qualitative data. We encourage our clients to use the DFV framework to structure the process of validating and prioritising ideas. DFV considers an idea’s desirability (of users), feasibility (of delivery) and viability (of cost). This approach helps to gather ideas from a broad range of people at all levels, remove subjective opinions and replace them with quantitative data so that only validated ideas are promoted to a delivery team for execution.

Explain why changes are happening

To get people on board, explain the logic, thinking and supporting data behind your initiatives. Articulate why the initiative is important, and how it will create positive outcomes. Link back to collective company goals, while also answering what’s in it for me?’ for your employees. We’ve talked before about how the key to engagement is to align individual purpose and values with company goals.

Present a clear view of the path ahead

Share what you know - what’s happening, when and how - and what you don’t know. Clarity about the strategy will instil confidence and a sense of transparency about the process. Ensure someone sets out activities, metrics and outcomes so that there is agreement about deliverables and how they are being measured.

This approach helps ensure that you are making decisions that are informed, aligned with organisational objectives, and with the well-being of all stakeholders in mind. 

Want to know more about our approach to identifying (and implementing) actions to achieve impact? Reach out for a no-obligation conversation.

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