A Nation of Waiters, or a Nation of Winners?

Napoleon famously called England “A nation of shopkeepers”. We’re in danger of becoming a Nation of Waiters.

I’m not talking about the people who bring you lunch in a restaurant.

I’m talking about people who delay and delay before taking action.

It’s completely understandable in the current circumstances of Brexit uncertainty, but it is nonetheless dangerous for at least three reasons:

  • While we wait for the uncertainty to resolve, the world carries on. In particular, technology continues to up-end familiar ways of doing business. A FTSE 250 CEO said to me last week that he’s never seen consumers change as much as they have over the last decade, and the cause isn’t Brexit, it’s smartphones. Companies that sit around waiting could find themselves blindsided by competitors they’ve never heard of working in ways they’ve never thought of.
  • Brexit-related uncertainty will last for several years. Yes, the current unbelievable uncertainty could prove to be the “new normal.” It’s just not a plausible or responsible strategy to try to wait it out.
  • Success in any competitive situation depends on timely decision cycles (if you don’t know about “Observe-Orient-Decide-Act” aka “OODA” loops, see below). Managers are getting loads of practice in Observing, but not enough in Deciding and Acting, meaning they are developing the habit – and that means they are collectively developing a culture – of being passive and slow.

Andy’s Advice: Take this to your team: “The current uncertainty is the new normal and could last for years. Meanwhile, the march of technology (and demographic change) will continue regardless. That means that waiting is the wrong thing to do. Many of our competitors, distracted as they are by the daily political intrigue, haven’t figured this out yet. The question is: what action do we need to take, now?”

Resources to help

I have a couple of white papers to help your deliberations. If you haven’t seen them already, here are the links:

  • Rationally Fearless – especially for help with framing difficult conversations about denial and facing new realities.
  • Start with what you have – rather than waiting in vain for a silver bullet, read this for low-risk and low-cost ways to find growth in under-appreciated assets you have already.

OODA Loops

Imagine a competitive situation between A and B. It could be combat, sport or business. John Boyd, a fighter ace and military strategist, identified a four-phase process that both parties cycle through:

Observe: What’s happening?

Orient: What does it mean? How is the situation unfolding?

Decide: What should I do?

Act, thereby influencing what’s happening.


If A can cycle through this loop faster than B, then A will change the situation faster than B can keep up. B’s observations will start to lag behind reality, hampering B’s ability to respond effectively. B’s collapse is then all but inevitable. This is why businesses in today’s environment must speed up their ability to cycle through this process if they are to win.

Want to win in today’s confusing environment?

Find out more about Leadership Advisory: Leadership Advisory with Andy Bass.

Call me to discuss: 07754 232 888