We have an expression we use around the office whenever we discuss a new idea and someone impulsively acts on it without first thinking it through, we call it "backing up the truck." This came about several years ago when we were discussing a publicity idea to promote our I.T. related products. Basically, we were thinking of writing a series of white papers on various subjects and mailing them to our customers and key contacts in the industry (e-mail was still in its infancy). At the time, everyone at the meeting agreed it was a good idea but we should sleep on it over the weekend. However, one of our guys took the initiative of calling a paper supplier and, lo and behold, on Monday morning a delivery truck backed up to our offices with a couple of skids of paper. We were all bewildered why the person ordered the paper before a decision had actually been made, hence the expression.
"Backing up the truck" obviously represents a "leap before you look" type of impulsive behavior and, unfortunately, we see too much of it in the corporate world. I think it might be caused by the highly competitive nature of corporate politics whereby people try to scratch and claw their way to the top and seize on any opportunity for recognition. Yes, it is necessary to respond in a timely manner to the pressures of business, but companies can ill-afford a knee-jerk reaction to every problem or opportunity.
Another reason for it may be that we have raised a generation of people who only understand instant gratification and cannot plan their lives beyond 5:00pm. This would suggest they have learned to operate in a constant "fire fighting" mode of operation whereby they react as opposed to plan. In other words, "backing up the truck" is a natural part of their corporate culture.
If the wrong decisions are made, a "backing up the truck" form of behavior can be both costly and destructive. If you are a one-man operation and have supreme confidence in your judgment, than it might be a suitable form of behavior. As for me, I like to think things through. For example, rarely do I ever write and publish an article on the same day, regardless of the easy-to-use publishing tools now available. I have made it a policy to sit on an article for at least 24 hours (including this column), to give me a chance to think about it over night and look at it with a fresh perspective on the following day. I can't think of a time when I didn't make a modification to an article as a result of this process, be it large or small. I am therefore more confident in what I am presenting to my readership.
When I fly, I like to see a pilot with a little gray hair. It's not that I have anything against younger officers, I just feel more comfortable knowing there's someone in the cockpit who has been around the block a few times, and has the experience to consider all of the alternatives before making a decision, such as Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger. There's no substitute for experience.
By the way, in our "backing up the truck" example, cooler heads prevailed and the skids of paper were returned to the vendor the next day.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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