Confronted with options and strategies, the cost of doing things is very often the first thing that comes to our mind. We make decisions all the time on the basis of affordability. This is sensible. Then, we perhaps continue with the decision making process, formal or not, in terms of ‘opportunity costs’: what other things could be done or implemented with similar costs.
The missing piece in those mental algorithms is also often ‘the cost of not doing something’. The pair ‘the cost of doing A + the cost of not doing A’ should be elevated to the category of requirement (business planning, business process, decision making).
As usual, this is so obvious that people tend to switch off and assume that it is on the table. After all, a strategic or business plan contains strategies, actions and priorities targeted to the goals and objectives. So, asking about ‘the cost of not doing them’ sounds silly. But it isn’t.
The cost of not doing something (strategically sound) is not the simple negative mirror of the cost of doing it. By asking the question, systematically, a whole universe of ideas, risks, perhaps new angles will emerge. It will be rich, not a pain (unless you decide that it has to be painful).
It is not unusual to find unpredictable angles once the question is posed, and, with them, options of doing something different.
The questioning is also basic if you want to inject some Critical Thinking: the cost of not hiring X, the cost of not starting Y yet, the cost of not investing in Z. The cost of not tackling leadership development in depth; the cost of not addressing culture yet; the cost of not exposing the organization to some new ideas.
Try. Have a list of 5 to 10 strategic priorities. They could be simple or even small. They may even be unquestionable. Or on the contrary, not decided yet. Ask some members of your team, for example, to explore and articulate, fully, the cost of not doing them. Visualize the resulting organization. What it may look like.
The cost of not asking ‘what’s the cost of not doing’ is very high. So high that the absence of the questioning is true mismanagement.