In Action, Change, Strategy

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

We spend a lot of time as organizations (hopefully) talking about the future. And, to most people’s credit, it’s usually a positive conversation. Most leaders are excited about the future for their business. Most of them are passionate about what they do and feel like there are opportunities out there just waiting to be taken advantage of.

I’ve been to a lot of strategy development sessions/events/retreats, and the vast majority of them are focused on what we want the future to be, what we think the opportunities are, what we think our strengths are, etc. And that’s what they should be about. And we usually come out of those things with some goals (We’re going to grow revenues by 15%! We’re going to open 3 new locations! We’re going to introduce 2 new revolutionary products!). Good job.

The problem is that too many of those sessions stop there. They leave out a big step. Question: Weren’t you trying to grow 15% the past 5 years too? Haven’t you only had 1 location for 50 years? Wasn’t your last major product innovation 8 years ago? The answers are usually affirmative to all of those. So if you’ve been trying to do this for years, and haven’t been successful, what’s stopping you?

I’m not suggesting you should just think about all the barriers you face and give up. What I am suggesting is that no strategy or plan is complete without having some idea of how you’re going to address the key barriers that are in your way. You know they’re there, or you’d already have done all those things you say you’re going to do now. You might even already know what they are. But do you have specific actions you’re going to take to make sure they don’t stop you this time?

Too many businesses are having “groundhog years” – same thing, year after year, no real change or improvement. Maybe it’s time to try something different. Maybe you need to actually take on those things that are consistently holding you back. It could be people. It could be competitors. It could be processes. It could be products. It could be leadership. It could be any number of a thousand things. Whatever it is, stop ignoring it or hoping it will go away. Figure out how to beat it – and then beat it.

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  • Chris Mason

    Sometimes when the dragons seem too large we do give up. The key is to work out how to attack the Dragon in ways we are capable. That means understanding where to start and specifically what to do. Have a 10 step plan for dealing with the Dragon because often one step is just too big a hurdle to jump. The better our capability the more aggressive our 10 step plan can be. You do not need to wait until that capability is in place if you get help. Who do you know that has the experience and capability to help you slay your Dragon?

    • Matt Heemstra

      Agreed. That’s true in every part of life. When we feel overwhelmed, the best way to address it is to try & break it into pieces and put together a plan to deal with the pieces. Sometimes just having a plan of action you believe in can make all the difference.

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