I’ve been riding motorcycles for over 20 years. Before I purchased my first bike, I participated in a motorcycle safety course. Something I would recommend everyone to do before hitting the streets.
During the two-day course, we rode small bikes through various obstacle courses and drills that we were required to pass successfully before progressing.
On the final day, we participated in a classroom exercise and while I don’t remember all the details, I do remember the acronym they taught us to practice while we ride. I use it every time I am on the on the road. This mindset has helped me avoid dangerous situations on more than one occasion.
SIPDE (pronounced SIP-DEE)
While the original intent was to increase awareness and planning to avoid accidents while riding a motorcycle, the steps have a real application for navigating our day-to-day leadership adventures.
Scan – Be aware of the environment. Look for the risk factors that have potential to cause problems down the road. A safe rider is constantly looking to the front, side to side and checking his or her mirrors. For a leader, this is the practice of getting out of the office and staying tuned in to what is happening with the team, customers, and the process.
Identify – Evaluate the input. Gather additional insight into the situation. Is there something relevant happening requires your attention? What is the source of the risk? When riding this might be a cross street where the driver may not see the rider and make a left-hand turn into her or his path. For a leader, it might be a conflict brewing in the team or a bit of negative customer feedback.
Predict – Anticipate the next action. In the middle of traffic, this might mean monitoring a car in front of you that is showing signs of stopping or changing lanes and planning ahead for action the driver might take. For a leader, it could be assessing the direction the problem or issue might go if left unattended. Based on prior experience and knowledge of the business or organization, what is the probability this may escalate if not addressed.
Decide – Choose a response. Based on the situation, a rider may take evasive action, continue to monitor or prepare for a sudden maneuver if necessary. The point is to decide what the response will be if the prediction is correct, (or incorrect). A leader, having gathered information and evaluated the risk, may also choose to continue monitoring or intervene at some level.
Execute – Follow through on the decision. This step is fairly straightforward. The rider takes the action determined as appropriate for the situation, evaluates the result, and then repeats the process. In practice, this step is much the same for the leader. Follow through on the decision, monitor the outcome and then adjust the approach based on the new information gathered. In other words, repeat the process.
This happens so rapidly when riding that I’m barely aware of my mind working through the steps. Yet, I do see the process at work and I appreciate the results. It is as natural as managing the throttle or brakes.
In particular, I value the scan step. Especially when I catch myself enjoying the scenery and realize I forgot to watch the road. We experience so much distraction and noise, it is easy to miss important signals that might serve as a warning.
Check in regularly.
Go see for yourself.
Assess the situation and move through the next steps.
Have you established your own rapid, decision-making process? It just might save you from a leadership accident you could have avoided.