Last night I attended a K-9 demonstration given by our local police department. The K-9 team shared some videos, photos and stories about how the role their dogs play in finding and capturing criminals. Afterwards, we went outside and watched one of their dogs in action in the parking lot as it located contraband (placed in a police van by an officer) and captured someone (played by an officer) who became a threat during a staged traffic stop.

The one thing that became apparent was that police officers and K-9s train for “the moment”, the point in time when everything that they have worked for is tested. In these moments, there is a lot at stake – public safety, the lives of victims, criminals and officers, even the lives of their dogs. Training for “the moment” often determines the outcome – lives saved and a safer community. Because we are aware of the impact of this kind of training on our safety and security, we expect police departments to provide training like this as part of what they do.

How does this relate to the corporate world? Many times ROI or degree of change is NOT TIED to business processes or processes for change, but hinge instead on management choices made in “the moment”. In a moment, potential profit or project ROI can be captured or lost. In a moment, trust with the workforce can be built or lost. In a moment, management credibility can increase or decrease, affecting the careers and futures of management teams everywhere.

If you doubt what I am saying, think about the projects that you have been involved in over the years – engineering projects, process improvement projects, change initiatives, etc. You and your team may have worked for weeks or months on an opportunity to make more money or change the culture. Things progressed well until you went to a meeting where, in a moment, the direction changed, a mixed message was sent, or doubt was created about the end goal. After that moment, NOTHING WAS THE SAME AGAIN! The project died, the momentum that you gained waned, or the trust you built with others was lost. Perhaps all three of these occurred in the same moment. NO ONE TRACKED THE MAGNITUDE OF THE LOSS attached to that moment and instead chalked it up to “management discretion”, “just the way things are here”, or “something to expect during the change process”. The real reason for the loss was a lack of skills for “managing the moment”.

Unfortunately, corporate awareness of the existence of these moments and the power attached to them is extremely low and training to “manage the moment” is almost non-existent. What would happen if management teams were as prepared to “manage the moment” as police K-9 teams? How much more money could you make? How much easier would it be to build trust and credibility? How fast could you change?