How to know when Giving Up is the Right Thing to do

Posted by martin.parnell |
How to know when Giving Up is the Right Thing to do

There was a time when, once I had begun reading a book, I felt obliged to finish it.

Needless to say, this led to some hours of boredom as I must have thought, albeit subconsciously, that not to do so would be “giving up”. 

That is no longer the case. I will always give the author the chance to engage me and have been pleasantly surprised, at times, when a novel or piece of non- fiction has made me have a change of heart and decide to carry on to the end. 

But. I am now quite happy to say to myself “This book’s not for me” and move on to something else. It’s the same with movies. I watch them mostly at home and so, if I have been watching for half an hour and am feeling restless, I will switch it off. 

The thing is, knowing when to call it a day and face the fact that something is not working for you. 

In business, we also have to be prepared to admit when something isn’t working.This can be very hard, especially if a lot of time and money has been invested.

There will always be tricky patches, when snags occur or fatigue sets in, perhaps there is a change of personnel or you come across unforeseen challenges, sometimes it’s just a case of persistence or finding ways to combat these issues and re-engage in a project. 

But what if you get to the stage when you realise that no matter what strategies you might introduce, it just isn’t working? 

In her 2012 article for the Harvard Review, “12 Guidelines for Deciding When to Persist. When to Quit,” Rosabeth Moss Kanter states:

“Persist and pivot, and the effort could go on to success. Pull out in the messy middle, and by definition the effort is a failure. The issue is deciding which direction to take.”

She then goes on to give set a questions you might ask yourself, or your team, to help you come to a decision;

  1. Are the initial reasons for the effort still valid, with no consequential external changes?
  2. Do the needs for which this a solution remain unmet, or are competing solutions still unproven or inadequate?
  3. Would the situation get worse if this effort stopped?
  4. Is it more cost-effective to continue than to pay the costs of restarting?
  5. Is the vision attracting more adherents?
  6. Are leaders still enthusiastic, committed, and focused on the effort?
  7. Are resources available for continuing investment and adjustments?
  8. Is scepticism and resistance declining?
  9. Is the working team motivated to keep going?
  10. Have critical deadlines and key milestones been met?
  11. Are there signs of progress, in that some problems have been solved, new activities are underway, and trends are positive?
  12. Is there a concrete achievement — a successful demonstration, prototype, or proof of concept?” 

Once these issues have been addressed and the questions answered, you may be guided as to how to move forward, what action to take.

Kanter advises, “If the answers are mostly Yes, then don’t give up. Figure out what redirection is needed, strategize your way over obstacles, reengage the team, answer the critics, and argue for more time and resources. Everything worth doing requires tenacity.

If the answers trend toward No, then cut your losses and move on. Persistence doesn’t mean being pig-headed.

These suggestions may not help when I’m deciding which book to pick up next or which movie might be worth recording, but, hopefully, they will help when you have a similar decision to make, in business.

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