Do things when you should…not when you have to

should what? By 416style on flickrAs a consultant, its my job to help my clients understand their options.  Its also my job to help them understand which of those options are best and which should be their focus over the near term (or long term).

Sometimes, I’m paid to provide strategic options and then my client decides to implement those options themselves. Other times, I provide the options and help execute those options.

I prefer those clients that hire me to develop and implement over those that just want a report on what their options are.


Because – for the most part – those clients that want me to implement the recommended strategic options are the clients that do the things that they need to do when they need to do them.

We’ve all seen organizations who hire consultants, pay a good bit of money for  ‘strategy’ and then do nothing after the strategic plan is created.  What’s worse, we’ve all seen organizations pay for that strategic plan and then wait until they ‘have’ to implement their strategic plan.

When you (or an organization) wait till you have to do something rather than doing something when you can or should, you’ve put yourself in a bad spot.

Waiting till you have to do something forces you to work from a position of weakness rather than one of strength. Doing something when you have to do it causes corners to be cut and shortcuts to be created.

Doing something when you should…or at least when you can…is a much better proposition.  Doing something when you should gives you the ability to think things through, build a good plan and execute without pressure. Doing things when you should also allows you to  get a couple of false starts under your belt and even fail once or twice…but you should have time to recover.

When i get a call from a client asking if I’m interested in working on a project that has a 3 month deadline and is ‘uber-urgent’, I always ask for background. I want to know why its ‘so urgent’.  Is it because they’ve waited to long to initiate the project and are doing it because they ‘have’ to or is it because they want to get a jump on their strategy and do things when they should?

The answer to that always guides my thinking in whether to take the work or not.  I’d rather work with the clients that do things when they should.

What about you? Are you doing the important things when you should or only when you have to?

Image Credit: should what? By 416style on flickr

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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12 years ago

To take it a step further, drop the “when”: Do the things you should, not merely the things you have to. The should/have disparity is what differentiates proactive from defensive. If you do what you should, you are stepping forward to take advantage of an opportunity or mitigate an expected misfortune. These are strategic actions by a firm that aims to control its own fate. If you are compelled by your present situation to react to a condition that already exists, you are merely being responsive, and your firm is a leaf in the wind. To your point, it’s sometimes… Read more »

12 years ago
Reply to  JimShamlin

Excellent Jim…very very true. Thanks for stopping by!


[…] guest post by Elmer Boutin. I read with great interest Eric’s post of January 31, 2012 entitled Do things when you should … not when you have to. I agree with what he wrote, and it really got me going about something I’ve been mulling over in […]