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The way organisations traditionally approach major change seems to make sense

The process usually goes like this:

  1. We write down what (we think) we want.
  2. We ask our colleagues what (they think) we want.
  3. We then go to the market and ask 3rd parties if they can do what we want. Unsurprisingly, many say they can.
  4. We ask them for written proposals.
  5. We meet them once (maybe twice) to hear them say what they wrote.
  6. We evaluate their responses on paper, we rate them relative to each other, and ask our colleagues what they think of them.
  7. We select the one with the highest score.
  8. We sign contracts.
  9. Then we get on with doing something together.

It seems to be a logical way to mitigate the risk of getting this wrong.

But does it really mitigate the risk or are we fooling ourselves?

The traditional approach means we have signed contracts before we find out if:

  • The vendor can do what we said we want, and
  • What we said we want is really what we actually want.

Why do we do it this way?

Looking at this in a different context, the early stages of the process seem very similar to how someone uses online dating to find a partner.


  • They will spend very little time on steps 1 to 2 (“what do I want”), in the knowledge it’s likely to change anyway
  • They will spend far more time going through steps 4 to 7 (evaluation and selection).
  • And hopefully step 8 (signing contracts) is not even considered until they’re damn sure! It will certainly only happen after step 9 (doing stuff together).

When it comes to major decisions in our personal lives, we know it is insane to get into contract negotiations before we are confident this is going to work out.

We seem to lose that sanity when making similar decisions in our organisations.

When selecting a new partner (or technology), see if you’re a good match before deciding to get hooked.

Small bets. Small risks.