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It Takes Too Long! (#157)

TCL Illustration 157

The Confident Leader


Just home from camp, our soon-to-be-senior in high school was quickly attempting to finish her college essays and summer reading before the start of school. I heard her exclaim, “everything is taking longer than I expected.” Most leaders deal with this issue every day.

“There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always enough time to do it over.”

— Jack Bergman (ret. U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General)

This Week’s Edition

The Planning Fallacy describes our brain’s bias toward optimism when planning tasks. We underestimate the time it will take to do things which leaves leaders frustrated with incomplete tasks.

Clarify Your Thinking

While our daughter is not prone to procrastination, she assumed how long she thought the projects should take. When it unexpectedly takes longer, she experiences frustration. It also delays other things she needs to get to. 

I can empathize: 

  • We’ve been working on a research survey for top leaders about Leadership Doubt and it’s impact on their effectiveness. It’s taking longer than I expected. Stay tuned. 
  • Our website project took ten times longer that the three months we expected,

This phenomenom is called Planning Fallacy. We optimistically underestimate the time needed to complete a future task. 

This bias of our brain creates challenges for leaders who make their list for the week, expect to accomplish everthing, and end the week having accomplished only half of what they set out to achieve. 

This leaves leaders both frustrated at their failure to accomplish their goals and doubting their overall leadership of the effort. 

Old Thinking: Why is this taking so long? Are we doing something wrong? Did I make a mistake in undertaking this project? Do I have what it takes to see this to the end?

New Thinking: This is taking a long time. It’s frustrating, but in the end it’ll be worth it. Sometimes things just take the time they take. 

Thoughts Lead to Actions

According to Murphy’s Third Law, everything takes twice as long as it should. You’ve most likely had experiences in your leadership which have proven this to you perhaps numerous times.

Given this truism, how should a leader plan? If all projects have three primary elements: budget, time and scope, only one of those elements can be the top priority. 

If the top priority is either budget (money) or time (a specific deadline) then the plan is clear. You may only spend the budgeted amount or you have to launch the project as is on date certain.

However, when “scope” is the top priority, you are declaring that the project must include all the needed elements to be complete, i.e., my daughter’s essays and her summer reading. Therefore to be complete and at the desired level of quality, it may take longer than expected. 

Take these steps to ensure the scope/quality of your project:

Step 1: Determine the top priority: budget, time or scope.

Step 2: If it is scope then determine the quality standard that must be met.

Step 3: Hold yourself accountable to the quality standard even if it take a little longer. 

We chose not to ship a substandard website just to hit an arbitrary timeline. Despite missed deadlines and cost overruns, we focused on the quality we desired from the start. After a long process, we finally launched the site last week. We hope you like it.

Sometimes things are worth waiting for even if they take twice as long as you expected. 

Boost Your Performance

In this week’s video, learn how to walk the fine line of curbing your bias toward underestimating time for projects and prioritizing quality without succumbing to analysis paralysis or illusive perfection.  

What’s Your Opinion?

How do you manage your leadership when things take longer than you think they should? Share it with me at

If you are going to be a leader, you might as well be a good one. Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

We live to make bad leadership extinct so forward this newsletter to others who strive to be confident leaders. 


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