A recent conversation with a colleague ended with the comparison of these two commonly used phrases, and an “Aha!” type of insight.
HEAT UP – What we want to happen when we are enacting strategy.
CHILL OUT – What we want to happen when we are figuring out mission, vision, values and goals that lead to those strategies.
It is not a good idea to get them confused!
Heating up adds fuel, combusts, gives warmth, attracts a crowd.
Chilling out — condenses, reduces, solidifies, and slows.
Another way to understand this is to consider fog. Fog isn’t warm enough to evaporate and it isn’t cold enough to solidify. It is in between. When we face a tough and confusing issue in business, we may feel foggy. What to do?
We do well to chill out first, and then begin to heat up.
If we start acting before we’ve reduced a critical issue to its essence, people end app working frantically, and not from a common understanding. In such a case, heat leads to destructive forms of conflict, regrettable actions and/or reduced profit margins.
Chilling out is a way to get to the:
- WHY are we working at this?
- WHO will work at this, WHO supervises them, WHO needs to be consulted, WHO holds decision power over this, and WHO is funding this?
- What is the criteria for our success?
- WHEN must the work be completed?
- WHERE will the work be done?
- HOW will we proceed from here and in what order of steps?
Chilling out in this way helps all the key players collect the fuel needed to heat up and to do it together, from a common point of reference. Heating up happens far more efficiently that way.
Yes, it probably feels silly to ask, “Should we chill out or heat up?” when faced with a big one. But before completely rejecting this idea, you might ask yourself what question you are asking (or not asking) in its place.