The melting ice cube syndrome: the clock can be your friend or enemy

No, I have not made a new discovery in chemistry/physics. Nor is the syndrome in this headline a medical finding that will lead to yet another worldwide woe. Instead, the melting ice cube condition affects every business at some point.

Organizations have a limited amount of time to solve problems or take advantage of opportunities, and the second hand on every clock is always moving. Almost every major sport except baseball must deal with that melting ice cube as well in the form of a ticking clock.

When a team is winning, it works to turn up the heat to exhaust the time and quickly melt the ice cube so that the opponent can’t score. If a team is losing, it must take advantage of every second in order to score again or create a freezing effect to slow the process.

Decide not to decide

Sometimes with a particularly serious problem, time can be a powerful tool because rather than taking action, it is better to move into a watch-and-wait mode. Often the best decision is no decision and coming to that conclusion takes evaluation, highly educated guesses and even a bit of luck.

Too many times, we spring into action and wind up doing more harm than good. Conversely, at other times we wait and hope, and the problem escalates into a disaster because of its exponential effects.

Frequently it seems we can’t win for losing and no matter which way we turn, we have issues. So what’s the best solution?

Effectively using a risk/reward inventory can point us in the right direction to improve the odds of choosing the best course of action. Many also call this an upside/downside assessment. In its simplest form, it’s really taking the time to make the effort to stop, think, research and then formulate a plan before pulling the trigger. As they say, haste makes waste, but a “do nothing” strategy can also work against you.

A leader must train his or her team to utilize a disciplined evaluation process on just about anything that is out of the norm, any matter in which making the wrong decision could prove costly or painful.

Make a work sheet

This can be facilitated by creating your own simple work sheet whereby on the left side you list the course of actions that you might take and on the right side you make your assessment using a 1 to 10 numeric gauge, with the lowest numbers indicating unlikely to help and a 10 indicating the best shot at working.

When you’re done, you eliminate those low numbered actions, as an example, any with a rating of 4 or less. You then focus on the remaining actions scored five or higher which are most likely to be effective, and don’t exceed your threshold of pain. This thoughtful and disciplined process simply improves the odds in your favor both when solving problems or jump-starting opportunities.

The clock can be your friend or your enemy; you just need to learn how to estimate what can be accomplished in the amount of time remaining before the ice cube melts and evaporates forever.