Don’t Walk

My morning commute allows me the time to read the paper, invent stories about the people that I am sitting near and to generally watch the world go by.

This morning, standing at the pedestrian lights after getting off the train, I saw the very essence of what makes well functioning organisations.

Given that it was the peak hour rush, next to me were about 100 people waiting to head off to their daily to do list.

And we waited.

And continued to wait.

Then one or two people decided that – because the road was clear – that they would walk across despite the fact that the pedestrian lights warned of imminent danger.

The rest of us waited.

And waited.

Finally the red warning sign changed to green and we were away.

Why did so many of us wait when there was no real or imminent danger if we had of ignored the pedestrian instructions?

Why did so many of us wait when there was no law enforcement to police our behaviour?

We could argue that it was because we are trained from a young age to respect authority.

We could argue that it was because we were scared to be “that person” that everyone else silently scorns for obviously not being the person who was trained from a young age to respect authority.

But I suspect an even more fundamental issue was at play and one that explains what makes some organisations great whilst others forever seek to be great.

What was happening was that we all individually – and by extension, collectively – decided that the risk / reward equation contained too many unknowns for us to be certain that the couple of seconds advancement of our journey would be worth the negative value if something went wrong.

Good organisations understand that risk management is a constant decision – one that never ends.

Not so good organisations are those that consider risk management to be a binary decision.

Crossing at the pedestrian lights will never be the same!

 

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