Big Gulp Decisions

The scary feelings that come with disruptive leadership are normal and to be expected —
Charlene Li talks about how to handle these “Big Gulp” moments.

Here’s The Transcript

Hi. Charlene here and today, I’m going to be talking about the big gulp moment. At some point in your disruption strategy and journey, you’ll come to a point where it’s decision time. You’ve done all the research, all the planning, and now it’s time to make that decision. I have yet to see an organization make a meaningful disruptive move without really coming to the edge of this point and really having to double down and say I’m going to bet the company. I’m going to make a decision that is going to be so impactful that it’s really nerve racking and one has to take a big gulp and say “Do we jump or do we not?”. Because once we do, there’s no turning back.

I think in many ways the reasons why most organizations do not go into the disruptive strategies and really move into that assertively and intentionally is that they come up to this big gulp moment and they haven’t prepared for it. For some reason they think some magic wand will show up and they can wave it and it’ll be an easy obvious decision. It’s never that way. If it was easy and obvious, everybody would be doing disruption. In fact, almost nobody does because of the big gulp moment.

There are a couple things I think that organizations can do to prepare for that big gulp moment because you know it’s going to come. The first thing is, it’s kind of a no-brainer, but do all the math, do all the scenarios, do the research, do as much case building as you can to get you to this point. Be able to answer as many of the questions you can anticipate from both your executives and the board, but also from your frontline employees, from your middle managers. How would you answer their questions and concerns?

Then, realize also that in the end you’re not going to have all the answers. You will never be 100% certain. How well do you actually have confidence in your process that gets to this big gulp moment to be able to jump off that edge? Then, the second thing I would say is once you decide to make this decision be prepared to what one disruptive company calls “burning the boats”. We have to be willing to say we’re making this decision and we’re moving forward and there is no going back. Because if people think that there is an option to go back to what you normally doing before, they will hedge. They won’t commit completely.

Cortes, when he landed in the Americas burned the boats and made people stay there and he says we’re committed to staying there, and you have to do the same thing with your disruption strategy. I think preparing for that big gulp moment is something that has to be built into a disruption strategy. What are the preparations, the data you need to make? Also, what are you going to do afterwards to be able to make sure that people are aligned and able to move forward from the big gulp moment? I wish you good luck in that journey and if you’d like to follow me and learn more about disruption and strategies and what you can do about it, look for me on my various social channels or my blog

Thanks. Talk to you in a few weeks.