We have a problem. In our organizations today, we react to the pace and complexity of our world with a “Ready, FIRE, Aim” mentality. We give lip service to becoming more innovative and “thinking outside of the box.” The reality is our “Ready, Fire, Aim” addiction is a box of our own making. We race along at an unsustainable pace, vomiting old ideas onto new challenges and crossing our fingers that it will all work out. “Ready, Fire, Aim” is killing our ability to be competitive and to answer our important questions with creative and bold solutions. “Ready, Fire, Aim” keeps us chasing our tails. If we agree that our “Ready, Fire AIM” cultures are a problem, then let’s do something about it. We’ll need to do something different. We’ll need to learn how to “A.I.M.” before we fire.
Successful change leaders are able to Attend, Imagine, and Move. We don’t normally think of these three activities as leadership skills. I think it is vital that we do. These three skills enable us to break the “Ready, Fire, Aim” tendency that dominates so many of our organizations and has us stuck.
We’ve been told all our lives by our parents and teachers – Pay Attention! It is amazing how frequently many of us stop paying attention to what is going on around us and in us. To “Attend” requires us to do two things. First, we must be present. We have to engage others in the here and now – the field of our shared experience. We don’t. And the consequence is that we talk past one another most of the time. Second, we must be observant of what is occurring in the field of our experience. Being observant means taking the time to fully assess and analyze our current situation before jumping to action. If our tendency is to race quickly from here to there, then developing this skill may be a first step toward becoming more reflective, less impulsive, and more aligned with both our individual purpose and organizational expectations.
“Imagine” is a word not used much in our organizations today. That’s a problem, for only when we intentionally engage our imaginations can we be creative and be innovative. Strategic thinking and “problem-solving” are reliant on our ability to be creative and innovative in our approach to leadership and business. Without developing the skill of “Imagining,” we are making decisions based solely on the past – past information, past decisions, past experiences; we are downloading old solutions on new challenges and settling for the obvious solution rather than imagining the optimal solution. When we imagine, we invite creativity and innovation as we consider the advantages and disadvantages of each course of action open to us before jumping into action. Then, the possibilities multiply and options that we’ve never considered or experienced before emerge and present multiple paths into the best possible future.
Our work as leaders is to “Move” things along. This involves laying out a strategy and making plans. The ability to be strategic and be purposeful enables us to put all the pieces together. We come to better decisions about what to do and what not to do. We more purposefully engage people and tasks. We think more carefully, feel more fully, and communicate more effectively.
When we are attending well and being present, we can better engage our imaginations and the collective wisdom of our teams in order to devise the optimal solutions that will enable us to move closer to realizing our strategic visions. As we develop these skills of change leadership, we increase the likelihood that we will kick the “Ready, Fire, Aim” habit. The first step is admitting we have a problem. Let’s “attend” to that.