People before business. Business before technology. Technology making people’s lives better.

On LinkedIn this morning, I saw another post about thinking vs. acting. It stressed the point that is important to move beyond thinking. Results don’t happen until we move beyond thinking. This is one hundred percent correct, but acting on that fact alone may create action that produces debt.

We can avoid the action debt and get out of the inaction zone at the same time. We can move forward without conflict between the engineers and the producers. Using illustrations to push a view point can get in the way, so don’t believe my illustration above is intended to win an argument. This is not who has the best debate or illustration and pictures.

Which is worse?

Someone once asked me, which is worse?

* Not doing something but thinking about it.

* Doing something without thinking about it.

If those two options are how the question is framed, then the answer is which form of gambling you prefer. Oh, there will always be an audience to validate our confirmation bias on both sides of the debate. The right mix and the right time are not a competition between the two. It is a collaboration.

To the point of the illustration shared on LinkedIn, action without thinking is blinded by an anxious mindset. If we find a minimal viable starting point and iterate the thinking, we can get the action moving in the right direction without action debt.

What is Action Debt?

Have you ever heard a boss tell an employee or a team to think before they do something? Of course, most of us have because humanity is resilient but not flawless. This is why pilots have checklists they use before a flight. We use routine to prevent repeated failures.

What happens when we are in unfamiliar territory? When things are not familiar, we may not have routines to guide us. If we were stranded from a plane crash on an island, not one of those sci-fi stories, and we needed to eat until we get rescued, we may need to plan things out. If we just raid the food in the plane, it may not last the time needed. Eating without a plan in this season would be one example of possible action debt. We may have to pay later for decisions we make without thinking.

Yet, regardless of planning, we are going to need to eat. So, here is where we get traction. We need at least a minimal viable diet to survive. We can figure that out pretty fast. Then we can eat. Once we figure out other questions, we may be able to up the meals to more than minimal viable diets. This approach avoids action debt, and action isn’t delayed.

Collaboration As A Pathway to Action

We have all heard begin with the end in mind. This is correct, but it is not the whole picture. The end is a vision that may or may not be the reality we achieve. Lean business thinking has taught us that MVP, minimal viable products, and value proposition fit usually involve many pivots. Our MVP needs a vision of an end to be formed. So, the end goal is OK as long as it isn’t a cemented foundation of our plans.

Most projects end up with a mix of engineers, a.k.a. thinkers, and producers, who do the work that moves the project along. Both workers are naturally correct and focused on critical features of projects. We need to plan, and we need to produce. If we focus on MVP patterns and cycles, then we can engage in early production sooner. The collaboration is answering the question of what makes up the MVP, the first round of work, and not getting lost in the hubris of knowing the end result of the project.

Again, the end goal may be close to reality, but time and time again, business projects that insist on a fixed end goal either fail or, as deadlines come close or resources thin, those realities force the absolute end goal to accept it was not absolute. If it wasn’t absolute in the end, the beginning belief of absolute goals was an illusion. It was a control technique that likely worked against creative culture. The team may have been fully engaged, but effort without genuine collaboration doesn’t produce the same results.

Collaboration is about culture, and I have worked at a few companies that were better at this than others. Some of these companies have seen team members grow, projects pivot with critical insight, and turnover on these teams is very low. People like to work on winning great culture teams more than being hired away, even if they could earn more.

Avoid Rescue as a Strategy

If we plan and act well, if we collaborate with MVP thinking, we avoid action debt. We can avoid rescue by avoiding needing to be rescued.

Oh, beginning with the end in mind can be multi-dimensional. When the automobile was invented, it needed wheels, an engine, and control for the driver and passenger considerations to come together. Leaders have the hardest time sharing their needs on a project as team members. Collaboration means everybody, from team members to end users are part of the success story. Lots of good books and skills have been learned and shared in recent decades that were not available last century. We live in good times if we are willing to learn and grow.

How will you influence your business, products, and services today?