Leadership Isn’t Waiting for Stars to Align

“It’s not the right time just yet.”

“I know we have an issue with missing Ownership, but we’ll get to it after the next hiring wave.”

“If we have some more time next quarter, it will be easier to start this change.”

On and on, we are great at postponing changes. Yes, it would have been easier if you already had five more great senior hires. Of course, making those architectural changes would be smoother if you somehow manage to get a quarter with much less deadline stress.

However, if you keep holding your breath for all those unicorns to appear suddenly, well, you’re going to pass out. Stars don’t align. Once in a blue moon is never.

I hate clichés, but there’s one that resonates with me when it comes to pushing for improvement and change: the best time to plant a tree is ten years ago, and the second-best time is today. You cannot and should not daydream about the perfect situation.

Working with clients, I often see issues that we all know full well are going to become real issues, but they put off addressing them. This results in so many missed opportunities to improve, and they are usually not standing still, but drifting slowly towards a worse situation.

For example, when the whole R&D team knows that their current architecture is the cause of many issues and has to be addressed, yet the architects team keeps waiting for the perfect timing to start the work. All of a sudden, a year has gone by without any improvement, and lots more code has been piled on top of it, making any future change even harder.

The right mindset here is that of immediate baby steps. Start by thinking big, knowing your dream state – if you could, where would you have liked to be today? Now, realizing that you cannot wait for some great timing, start working backwards from that goal and decide on what you can start doing today to move towards it slowly. Maybe you can add on two more days the next time someone whips up a new microservice to improve some infrastructure. Or maybe create a bunch of bite-sized tasks that can be done in-between sprints or whenever someone has some spare time.

Remember, there’s no standing still here. If you’re not actively moving forward, then you’ll quickly realize you’re moving backward.