In these intense times, work moves blazingly fast; its demands are increasingly complex. It’s constantly changing and it’s never complete. Technology is one reason; for better or worse, BlackBerrys, cellphones and laptops make one’s availability ubiquitous. And in a global economy, business never sleeps. Now, more than ever, we need a process to guide decision making.
In my experience, 10-10-10—the process of systematically considering the consequences of a decision over the next 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years—goes right to the heart of work’s fundamental challenge. No matter whether you’re an entrepreneur deciding where to manufacture a new product, an engineer selecting members for a special project team, or an executive opening a new office, every decision you make will call for trade-offs and require an evaluation of the potential consequences across different time frames.
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At such crucial moments, 10-10-10 will prompt you to first identify your most cherished values and goals, then gather data, test assumptions, identify options and explore their varied consequences, empowering you to create a life of your own making.
Consider an entrepreneur I’ll call “Joan”, to protect her privacy. She began her career as a teacher, then obtained a degree in social work, and recently decided to make the leap into the world of the self-employed. She began marketing herself as a family therapist, and drew her earliest clients from among friends, former colleagues etc.
Soon, however, Joan came to realize she needed a more steady flow of income if she was going to be able to pay for her own health insurance cover, mortgage and continue paying other expenses. She spent weeks trying to set up appointments with local doctors and insurance providers, hoping they would refer patients her way. Some did, but not nearly as many as she needed.
In a moment of exasperation, Joan called Mary Louise, the principal of her old school and a good friend. “I knew going out on my own wasn’t going to be easy,” she lamented, “but I may not even survive my first year.”
“Vin started three businesses before one finally stuck”, Mary Louise replied, referring to her husband, who had recently turned his first profit through his new eBay storefront. “You just have to keep trying things. I mean, try everything, Joan. Try something with the Internet. That’s the future.”
Joan balked. In fact, she had been considering launching a small website for herself, but her instinct had been to spend just enough to list her name and contact information. “I didn’t have a lot of money to spare”, Joan told me, “and I just asked myself, ‘Come on, who finds a shrink online?’”
But Mary Louise’s comment prompted Joan to re-examine her assumptions through 10-10-10, which she already used frequently in her personal life. Her question, she decided, was financial. “How much money,” she wanted to know, “should I put into marketing myself online?”
To conduct a thorough 10-10-10, Joan knew that her first order of business was to get some hard data. That didn’t take long. A brief online search revealed that therapists of all disciplines were promoting themselves on the Web, not only by listing details of their training and approach but also by including blog entries from patients, video clips, photos and podcasts. And when she looked at message boards and forums, she learnt that potential clients relied on such sites when they were looking for a therapist.
“I’m very risk-averse,” Joan observed when we spoke, not long ago. “But now that I’m a solo act, I have to get used to risk; I have to find ways to manage it. 10-10-10 showed me that it was riskier from a business point of view not to spend money.” Ultimately Joan invested $5,000 (Rs2.42 lakh) to design her website, even taking a course to learn how to manage it herself. The new endeavour proved so enjoyable that now, two years later, she is thinking about expanding her digital presence with a subscription-based email newsletter.
Those clients, incidentally, are enough to keep Joan’s new business afloat for the time being, but she has no plans to cut back on his/her Web presence. An entrepreneur can never let down her guard. You need to keep pushing yourself, using every tool available to improve your business—and not just today, but for the months and years ahead.
Much of the time—most of the time, really—work decisions can be taken apart, examined through a prism of values, biases, needs and fears, analysed piece-by-piece, and, with due consideration, reasonably resolved. They are, in that way, no different from the problems we face in our personal relationships. Every one of our choices has consequences, now and in the future. We must confront those consequences with candour and courage, and only then decide what kind of lives we want to lead.
Write to Jack & Suzy
Jack and Suzy are eager to hear about your career dilemmas and challenges at work, and look forward to answering some of your questions in future columns. Jack and Suzy Welch are the authors of the international best-seller, Winning. Their latest book is Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today. Mint readers can email them questions at firstname.lastname@example.org Please include your name, occupation and city. Only select questions will be answered.
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