It depends. It always depends. Figuring out how to approach situations, address challenges or secure decisions is some of the most difficult work that we do. We might know the outcome we want, but the challenge is successfully navigating the culture of the organization to secure the support that we need. Culture matters. Success in navigating culture means understanding how it works and figuring out how to respond. That’s easy to say, but harder to do.
We like rules. Rules make life easier. Knowing that there is a right and wrong answer means that we can figure out how to be successful under all circumstances. The only problem is that life doesn’t actually work that way, particularly when engaging in politics and managing in the face of complexity and uncertainty. That’s not to say that there aren’t strategies that can help, but those strategies inherently require adaptation, a willingness to be flexible, and acceptance that the only right answer in any given situation is, “It depends.”
Process is important. It provides useful and relevant guidance on how to get things done. And yet process can also be a crutch, particularly when we presume the real world works exactly as the process prescribes. For process to be useful, then, we need to rethink how we relate to process.
Culture is important. And context is everything. And yet, when we make decisions, we very often ignore the things that we should pay attention to the most. Worse, our tendency to do that is hard wired. That doesn’t mean it has to stay that way, though.
Getting process right is hard. While we might know what not to do, identify what to do is challenging and difficult. In a world where we accept that the right answer to process is “it depends,” we need to get clear and specific about how we can figure out what it depends on. Identify the questions to ask and the approach to take is challenging. Following it is even harder. Doing both is essential.
Process needs to work. To work, it needs to be relevant. That means that what we implement needs to be contextually appropriate, relevant and accepted. Cookie-cutter solutions don’t work here. What works depends. But the real question is, “what does it depend on?”