Back-lit silhouette of movers - The Shortest Move is Often the Most Difficult

The Shortest Move is Often the Most Difficult

Today marks a departure from our usual content, as I reach out with a heartfelt request. I invite you to join me in making a meaningful contribution to an organization that holds great significance to me. As President of the Sarasota-Manatee Council of the Navy League of the United States, I oversee all aspects of our fundraising and support for the Sea Services.

I was lamenting to my friend and colleague, Dan Norenburg, the challenge of our most recent household move. We moved less than five miles from one home to another, one exit north on the highway and a few traffic lights away. We’ve done this 20 times previously over much greater distances with kids and pets, yet this 21st, the shortest, proved the most difficult.

Dan quipped, “The smallest changes can be the most difficult to make.” 

I laughed, admiring Dan’s ability to see the lesson in the moment. Then, I thought more after our call. Isn’t it the truth? We know we should make the small changes, they aren’t necessarily difficult, yet we stop at the speed bump awaiting conditions or some other easy-to-reach-for reason to delay.

“I’ll get to it.” Years later, your household goods accumulate in closets and piles of things of questionable value. Now it’s time to either move those piles again or make different decisions.

In our situation, the building of a new home was delayed in short increments for months at a time. We were living our own continuing resolution of a new date, followed by a new date, followed by a new date. It became easy to “wait and see how this unfolds” before diving too far into the prep a move requires. Just like Congress, don’t take action until you must, and the failure to act becomes a decision of its own.

We were fortunate. We did not “have” to move and knew we weren’t going far. “We’ll deal with it when it’s time.” Then, suddenly, it was time.

Your government program managers live in this state of unease routinely. With federal funding for FY24 only just now flowing, the reality of deferred decisions will now cascade to a crescendo that will peak just after Labor Day.

Wait, wait, wait some more. Then, “Oh my God, how do we spend this money before the end of the fiscal year?” Terrible decisions will be made. Funds will go to those ready to step in to help.

Contrast the post-military moving analogy with a military move. One’s orders start with an “on or about the date” for departure from the current command and end with a “no later than the date” to report to the new duty station. There are boundaries stemming from the need to ensure the losing and gaining command maintain their “fit” of technical expertise as people change out.

Families might plan well in advance to fit as much personal time into their permanent change of station (PCS) move window as possible—but it is a fixed window of time, generally no more than 30 days from start to finish and often less.

Like many our age, the timelines associated with our move also involved managing extraneous but entirely relevant contradictions to be in more than one place at a time and also accept the realities of changes in the homebuilding industry. Health care of elders, medical issues, obligations to extended family, the ever-present contractor and sub-contractor issues, weather, inflation, quality of workmanship—and sloth.

Successful change starts with a deadline, just as visionary leadership starts with a picture of a different future. A marker must be laid down.

“When do we have to be out of this house?” we asked ourselves. We don’t, but we’ll get tired of paying for two houses before too long.

“When could we move into the new house?” we wondered. “Well, this is a custom home, so we don’t have a precise timeline,” said our contractor (actual words spoken).

We survived the first-world challenge of moving to a new home. It was painful because we let the timeline and weak plan close in on us. I learned a long time ago at sea that the better the planning, the smoother the operation. The corollary is painful: a poor plan always equals difficult execution.

So, what can our people and our government program managers do when faced with a similar planning challenge (not knowing exactly when they can spend how much on what capability)?

Your people can lay it out in clear terms, “taking (fill in the action) by (fill in date) will allow for (fill in the capability).” Conversely, “not taking (fill in the action) by (fill in the date) is a decision as well, and means you will not have (fill in the capability) until (fill in the date), and the new price will be (fill in the blank).” Confused?

Read it out loud. 

You, as the vendor, can actually set boundaries for your government buyer. Despite all of the chaos you think happens in Washington, DC, DoD still spends nearly $10 billion per week. It’s not that they can’t spend on you; they almost always can. Making the choice clear for the government is part of the job. They really need you much more than you need them. But too often, we act as though we can’t be too aggressive.

You can, and you must.

How did the move go? It’s over and we won’t do it again for the foreseeable future. The short-term pain was completely worth it. Somewhat avoidable in our case but worth it.

The same holds true for your customer relationship and your customer’s struggle to spend appropriated funds. There is short-term pain to be had. Embrace it, mitigate its impact, and apply the Million Dollar Influence within your reach.

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