When To Pivot

Decisions Making
Knowing when to pivot is an important part of effective leadership. From ania marushkevych's Flickr photostream.

One of the most difficult decisions a business leader or entrepreneur faces is when to pivot, or change course. This is especially difficult when you are invested heavily in a business, process or way of doing things. After all, there was a lot of learning and price to pay to get where you are.

By nature, we don’t like change. Human beings are tuned into finding patterns and sticking with them. It’s why we can observe people eating at the same restaurants and having a predictable routine when they wake up. Habits are both hard to create and hard to break.

From a pragmatic standpoint, this is highly efficient. We are able to simply execute without expending a lot of energy creating and thinking about new ways of doing things. An athlete that practices repeatedly is seeking to get to a point of reaction and primed for competing. The office worker that has to get through a set of tasks has their way of lining up the action items and getting them done.

But what happens if the script needs to change? How can we stop the impulse or change the form factor? Consider these signals to pivot.

  • You were fast, but now slow. Remember when the speed limit used to be 55? Now it is up to 80 mph. Cars have changed to adapt to the new and faster experience to keep up with the change. What you do today may be considered fast. In six months this can change. If the people or competitors around you are faster, then catch yourself and consider changing to keep up.
  • There’s no reward anymore. If you found a market that used to work but doesn’t work as well, then something changed. Move on. Find where the game is. It’s likely the reward lies elsewhere.
  • Too much friction. Getting things done may be harder in one area than in another. Your systems could be outdated and require more work to plug into the world and people around you. As the world changes, it obsolesces old tools and systems. There’s a point where it’s just easier to use something new than make something old work.

One of the things I like to ask myself is, “Knowing what I know now, would I start at this point or do something else?” Consider how difficult it is for people to let go of a falling stock. They are emotionally attached because they are vested. However, if they considered whether they would buy today at the current price and situation, their answers are more absolute than relative to their situation.

Pivoting depends on being absolute in your perspective rather than relative. Change when the facts change.

Do you have areas of your business or life that you should consider pivoting?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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