Today’s Forecast: Unpredictability w/ Some Loss of Control

Posted on January 31, 2014


2014 will be remembered throughout most of the U.S. as an especially harsh winter, and we are barely halfway through.  Earlier this week, I read or heard first person accounts, particularly in the South where traditional winter weather is a rare occurrence, of 20 minute commutes taking six hours, kids spending the night at their schools, and average Working Joes and Janes abandoning vehicles stuck in interstate gridlock.

A recent stress study found that the two greatest stressors for commuters are loss of control and unpredictability.

A recent survey of building owners found that the three primary benefits sought from their team in a project are responsiveness, predictability and budget accuracy.

A Harvard Business School research project on negotiation found that the three reasons people harbor a “phobia” of negotiation are because of a loss of control, unpredictability and absence of feedback.  Notice a theme?

As a daily commuter and frequent road warrior, I feel that a traffic jam is not the real pain-in-the-neck:  it’s not knowing why or how often I can expect them.  If I can expect it, I can plan for it.  If the jam is truly random—no accident, bad weather, construction—I lose control of the ability to reach my destinations on time.  I miss important events; I waste time; and most damning, I become unreliable.

Unpredictability, flux, uncertainty and constant change are the now, near-permanent rules of the game of not only healthcare, but business in general.  It is hard to plan for and hard to control.

Yet, these issues are not fickle like the weather, akin to a bad cup of coffee or your car not starting.  The items above are major stressors that put even highly educated, well-prepared people on edge, generate ‘phobias’, and make them avoid things in their daily routine.  Stress permanently alters behavior, and for the worse.

A top priority, for 2014 and on, might be to figure out the tools you need to best navigate these treacherous conditions, build your toolbox, and follow the Boy Scout motto:  be prepared.