Don't you believe it... Just do it

This corporate slogan turned management axiom has become very popular in the organisational world - not least because of its glamorous association with elite athletes.

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2011

But, although it sounds good, 'just do it' is bad advice, because it ignores the realities of how exceptional results are actually achieved, whether on the track or in the boardroom.

Both sporting and commercial stars have to put in a lot of groundwork before they can 'just do' anything. This includes building up a dedicated team to provide expert help, who all share the same goals and whose input is vital to the final performance. High performers also tend to have the ability to focus intensely on the task in hand. If you want to win an Olympic gold or start your own business you have to concentrate on that alone.

So here are some questions for anyone who feels tempted to adopt a 'just do it' approach.

Do you have a plan? Identify the steps you need to take to get the desired result. Be realistic about the amount of time and effort you will need to achieve it.

Is the required support in place? Just as top athletes need their coaches, nutritionists and physios, your frontline staff need their own supporting cast if they are to realise their full potential.

Are you focused? You can't launch 'just do it' initiatives every week. You need to be realistic about how much time people have and how many different objectives they can handle at once. Be honest with yourself and admit that it's less than you would like.

'Just do it' is tempting because it exemplifies the belief that anything is possible, if we want it enough. It's an inspiring message, but in the end the world simply doesn't work that way.

Alastair Dryburgh is chief contrarian at Akenhurst Consultants. Read more at

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