Growth on the Fly
Six Core Principles to Making Great Business Decisions
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
Managing a business in today’s fast paced, chaotic environment is complex. The goal of the business leader is to understand how to navigate through complexity to grow the business. There are six essential, fundamental building blocks or core principles that when practiced result in better organizational decision making. These building blocks form a continuum from where the business is now to where the owner or leader wants it to be in the future. They show a way a leader sees things and more importantly how he/she does things.
A continuum can be defined as a continuous whole or succession in which no part or portion is wholly independent of it. The current state and future vision form the extremes along the continuum. The objective is to draw the present state to the vision through leadership, strategy, people, and execution. These six core principles represent a tool called the Growth Continuum.
Viewing the core principles of the Continuum from a systems perspective, as a whole instead of pieces and parts, is how the business is seen progressing and growing or – struggling. No business can succeed without utilizing all components of the Continuum.
The Continuum helps the leader keep the business on a track to success. It is looking at the business and environment with a panoramic view and then zooming inside the company to assure that all activity is consistent with the vision, strategy and plan. It provides management with the ability to make informed decisions, especially in crises or …. you might say, on the fly.
The early development of the Continuum concept and its core principles came out of more than thirty years of hands on experience working for and with many dozens of companies, reading and studying hundreds of books and articles, and countless discussions with people involved with businesses of all kinds. Experience has been the best teacher.
The Growth Continuum’s Core Principles
Discovery and the Current Reality: The purpose is to boldly analyze and determine the issues facing the company. The basic issues affecting most businesses are similar. Discovery defines the starting place.
Vision – the Ability to See: This is the next critical step in developing the two end points on the Continuum. There is a passage in the bible that says “without a vision the people will perish.” Without a vision or purpose, the organization will struggle and fail. The growth and survival of any business is dependent on knowing its purpose; where it is going. It is the business’s North Star.
The current situation and the vision of a future place form the two extremes on the Continuum. The gap between the two is closed by employing the next core principles.
Leadership: Without leadership the business is rudderless. Assuming the mantle of leadership is an awesome responsibility. Leadership is not the sole responsibility of the person at the top. It must be shared at all levels of the organization.
Strategy and Planning: Prepares leadership and the organization to know what to do at all times, especially in critical situations. Without strategy and a plan to direct the organization, how can decisions be made consistent with achieving the vision and goals? The strategy serves as the company’s GPS, a bearing point that guides every person in the organization.
People and Teams: The people in the organization bring the strategy to life. They deliver the intended results developed in the plan. The objective is to define the roles required by the plan, then fit the talent to those roles. Business gets done by people, not strategies and plans.
Execution: The journey from implementing the plan to achieving intended results requires focus, priority and leverage, three key elements necessary for efficient execution. Systems, processes, and resources defined by the plan identify how the key business priorities, to how each individual’s daily task priorities are developed.
Metaphors for Business Situations
Fly fishing, sports in general, and the arts use many of the same core fundamentals that are found in business and are used as metaphors for business. In each, action and result are almost instantaneous. When hitting a golf shot, casting a fly or striking a musical note, the result is experienced immediately. Artists when creating paintings from their vision see the results of each brush stroke in that moment. Corrective action can be effected immediately. This is not the case in business where a bad decision – a knee jerk reaction, might not be experienced quickly and may result in unforeseen circumstances far in the future.
The term ‘on the fly’ is used to describe how prepared leadership, through thoughtful strategy and planning, can adapt to today’s rapidly changing conditions by making better informed decisions intuitively, especially in critical moments. A major premise is that through better strategic thinking and planning the risk of making uninformed decisions is reduced.
The Ability to See
Starting or managing a business requires skills and experience in one discipline or another related to the business. Rarely are there leaders who are skilled in all areas of a business. Good business leaders have an innate sense about what they are missing. Many of those who struggle or fail have strengths and experience in their field but don’t have a grasp or experience with all the business fundamentals necessary to succeed in a competitive environment. They see what is happening but may not know why it is happening or how to change it. A fly fisherman will hire an experienced guide when fishing unfamiliar water. The top athletes, performers, business people in the world, have coaches. The fishing guide sees what the fisherman doesn’t; the golf coach sees what the golfer can not. A business coach or advisor, unencumbered by the day to day recurring events, sees the business from a different, sometimes clearer perspective than the leader or the organization sees it.
Managing a business in a complex environment is a challenging, yet very rewarding journey of learning based on real experiences in real time. Every experience teaches something new. Mastery of the core principles will reduce the likelihood of fatal errors and provide a pathway to success.