Just do it

Are you looking for permission? Look again

Lots of people I know look around frantically for someone to give them permission. Permission for almost anything in their lives. Such an attitude is a great way of avoiding the responsibility of doing anything at all with your life. But of course it also helps you avoid failure. So you won’t be disappointed or ashamed having failed. Good for you. That’s the recipe for an average life. Putting the responsibility of taking responsibility outside of yourself is not the way to change the world, in ways large or, more likely, small. But small is beautiful.

Acting is a birth right

Which is why I’ve always been attracted to Nike’s slogan “Just do it”. It’s an enabling slogan, if you need enabling, that invites you to go ahead. It’s the ultimate delegation sentence. I can actually imagine me using it with my collaborator, a highly enabled individual. It gives you the right to act. It reminds you that acting is within your rights as an individual, especially when it’s about achieving your objectives.

If you lack goals, explore

That assumes of course you have objectives. But if you don’t, “just do it” points you in the direction of exploration and discovery. “Go ahead”, it seems to say, “experiment, try out things! Don’t be afraid.” As long as you conduct your activities within the confines of the standards you have set out for yourself, you should be fine. If your intention is right to begin with, you can always apologize later.

The measure of the person you are will be based on a combination of the standards you set for yourself and the engagement you have to act on those standards.

We just did it with our integrity desk

This goes beyond the purely conceptual. Let me share a short story of victory we had by “just doing it.” When I took over the role as head of internal audit at BTC, I was asked to establish a functioning integrity desk. This had been an objective for over three years, but to date no one had been able to get this thing off the ground. We did. Not because we were smarter, not because we were better, just because we “just did it.” We never asked for permission, we studied and found what an integrity desk should be. This was an exploration phase. We then borrowed ideas from many other agencies and environments and integrated these into a whole solution. We costed the whole, found it was feasible, and three months after we had been asked to do it, we actually managed to deliver a functioning integrity desk. If you want to see it, go here.

Perfect is the enemy of done

Rather than asking us to apologize, it turned out the organization actually was happy we managed to pull it of. Is our solution perfect? Far from it. I see ways of improving its functioning, both front end and back end every day. And we do make incremental adaptations on a regular basis, to get it functioning better and better. We never claimed we were the experts that could get this done perfectly from the first moment. My small team just did it, with the limited means available to us. We explored, discovered and went for it. We built upon the work done by the committees which worked before we did, but in the end, they never made it work. They spent too much time looking around for someone to give them authorization. We just never asked for that authorization.

And achieving the result we did felt really, really good.