Do You Have the Courage to Change Course?

Mike King


You know how it feels when you’ve made a decision that doesn’t seem to be working out.  You want to believe things will change for the better, but you know in your heart of hearts that it won’t.  Should you just stick it out or change course?

In his book, The Dip, Seth Godin says extraordinary benefits accrue to those of us with the guts to quit early and refocus our efforts on something new.

How do you know something isn’t working out?  You should begin by considering the reasons that supported your original choice.  Is the product or solution you selected failing to fulfill your original requirements?  Did the enterprise software you bought take far longer than promised to integrate with your system? If so, then you should seriously consider the change of direction you fear.


This graph depicts The Implementation Dip with the typical implementation curve in blue and the nightmare curve in brown.  This graph illustrates the central theme of this post.  You can see that sticking with a choice that isn’t working will cost you quite a bit of time and money.  The intangible factors are also significant; your entire team will be frustrated by the difficulties and delays diminishing their productivity and morale.  And, your relationship with the vendor will likely never return to the positive and productive state that existed when the project began. You should definitely ask yourself, how much can I trust this company to get it right?

If the solution you chose is not working or you are incurring costly delays, then why haven’t you changed course?  What is preventing you from making the difficult, but increasingly obvious decision?  The real challenge you face is probably psychological.  There is a compelling factor at work here called the consistency principle.  You’ve made a choice and the consistency principle is forcing you to be true to your decision.

Dr. Robert Cialdini tells us, in his book Influence - Science and Practice, that this principle has a powerful hold over us.  He says, “Once we make a choice or take a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.”  This is troubling information, but it can be very useful if we have the wisdom and courage to use it to our advantage.

Dr. Cialdini offers a simple trick you can use to disrupt the power of the consistency principle.  You simply ask yourself, “If I had to make a decision today, would I make the same choice?”  If the answer is no, then you should find a way to change direction. It’s easy to stay the course and it may even feel safe, but you need to take action when you know it makes sense to change.

Maybe you’ve invested a lot of money and time into the chosen path.  You know it doesn’t make sense to throw good money after bad.  You probably even know the short-term pain of taking a step back will be far outweighed by the future benefits.  If all this is true and you still haven’t acted then you are probably taking a short-term perspective rather than acting strategically for the long term.  Do you have the courage to quit and refocus your efforts on something new?


Further Reading:

4 Hidden Costs of Integration

Profanity Filter: A Build vs. Buy Analysis

Executive Buy-In: A Community Managers Worth