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Welcome to Merge's Monthly Mega Minute — a bite-sized, yet substantial and practical, nugget of information that you can use immediately to enhance your professional and personal success.

Leaders, don't try to boil the ocean

As a leader, it is your responsibility to make good decisions. In your department or organization, you are likely called on repeatedly to evaluate and implement a variety of projects. And many of these initiatives will probably require investigation and research in order to determine alternatives and make recommendations. But exactly how much research should one do to be able to make good decisions? That is a conundrum that many leaders face.

There are certainly situations where leaders have been known to make decisions too quickly, without considering all available information. But in my experience, it is the opposite that is much more likely; in their quest for more data or analysis, the job or project is made unnecessarily difficult, and decision-making is delayed.

The apt metaphor in this situation is that of boiling a pot of water versus boiling the ocean. Boiling a pot of water is a relatively easy task. It takes a short amount of time, and at the end, the outcome is the desired hot water. But boiling the ocean is an impossible undertaking. No matter how hard you try, you will never get to the intended outcome. Boiling the ocean is the metaphoric equivalent of delving into such minute detail that a project becomes impossible to complete. Boiling a pot of water is the metaphoric equivalent on making good decisions.

Here is an example. If you invest significant effort into forecasting monthly revenues and expenses for the fifth year of a five-year plan, you're boiling the ocean. Given that there is so much change and uncertainty in most business environments, the time and energy that it takes to project sales and costs with any level of confidence five years into the future is time and energy wasted. It would be far more effective to focus on detailed projections for years one and two of the plan, and simply estimate numbers for the final years of the five-year plan. In other words, boil the pot of water, don't boil the ocean.

So, what have been your experiences? Have you observed situations where people are trying to boil the ocean? What is the outcome? How have you dealt with it in your role? Please share your perspectives by commenting directly on the blog at

In The Globe and Mail: The lobster as a metaphor for continuous learning

In Merge's latest column, she offers three specific ideas to embrace continuous learning, to grow your mind and develop your abilities, so that you won't become stagnant, so that you will always be relevant, no matter what the changes are in your working environment. Read You need to cast off your shell if you want to continue to grow.

Turning Managers into Leaders

That Merge is one of only 28 women in Canada to have earned the Certified Speaking Professional credential?

Merge is a proud professional member of both the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and the Global Speakers Federation, and holds her Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation. The CSP designation is an international measure of speaking and platform excellence and is awarded only to those accomplished speakers who meet strict criteria and have a proven record of delivering client satisfaction. A CSP brings a demonstrated track record of continuing speaker experience, expertise and excellence, and is committed to ongoing education, outstanding service and ethical behavior. Less than 15% of the speakers who belong to the Canadian association hold this professional designation, and Merge is one of only 28 women in Canada to have earned the Certified Speaking Professional credential. You can obtain more information about the CSP designation here.

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