Part Two: The Lighter Side of Planning . . .

(see Part One:  The Dark Side of Planning . . . )

Time is but the stream I go a fishing in.  – Henry David Thoreau

I can’t tell you the number of fishing trips that have NOT gone according to plan, some from my own dumb mistakes (wrong equipment, things forgotten at home, not having my reels properly conditioned and cleaned, etc.) and some from outside forces (weather, airline delays, lost luggage, international politics, etc.).

I think the statistics between strategy execution and flyfishing trips are about the same:  somewhere between 30-50% don’t come off as planned!

So, what’s the lighter side?

Those who live to fish are an interesting breed.  There is definitely something different in their DNA.  It can be evidenced in the fact that they call it “fishing”, not “catching”.  We who call ourselves flyfishers realize it’s not just about catching fish, just as those who call themselves a professional business executive realize it’s not just about profit.  Catching fish and making a profit are a by product, not the objective.

The Journey is the Reward.    – Steve Jobs

After all, if it were just about catching lots of fish we’d be using dynamite!  And if was just about profits, every business would be making the cheapest products possible.

I like to believe that many flyfishers have learned this point-of-view and thoroughly enjoy the journey, no matter what problems arise.  It’s all part of the experience.  My tutor, Tom Willhite used to say that at birth we aren’t promised fame, fortune, happiness, good looks or brains.  All we get is a ticket that says:  Admit One.  The rest is up to us.

After every trip I come back with more knowledge about myself and more at peace with everything, whether I caught lots of fish or got skunked!

Unfortunately, that’s not quite the executive point of view when facing difficult strategy execution issues.  Usually it’s marathon meetings, pointed fingers and blaming, a quick reorganization and a few new faces at the table, revised budgets, then more planning.

Now, a flyfishing trip and a strategic plan are not quite comparable.  There are many millions of dollars at stake, and thousands of jobs on the line with a business strategy.  But there are three ways to make the experience more effective, and more enjoyable.

The first is attitude!  If you believe your business is life or death, you definitely need to take some time out and rethink your priorities.

However, if you, like most business executives are in the game for the long haul (not just some financial trader who wants to bust his butt for a few years and retire rich) and believe in continuous improvement, then the opportunity to learn from failure and less than perfect  strategic execution is a gift.

Also in the attitude department is friendship and positive relationships.  One of the reasons I enjoy my fishing trips so much, irrespective of the unplanned challenges, is that I get to go with people I like and enjoy.  There is no worse experience in life than being out in the beauty of the wild Alaskan wilderness with an insufferable, cranky, narrow minded, loud talking, selfish individual.  Even great fishing doesn’t make up for having the wrong people along.

All lasting business is built on friendship.  – Alfred A. Montapert

And the same is true of a leadership team.  As the business guru Jim Collins likes to say, get the right people on the bus!  Attitude, friendship and collegiality are great benefits for a team that is trying to implement a business strategy in today’s rapidly changing, highly competitive business world.  If you are on a team with people you can’t stand or who don’t share the same values, you need to think about finding a new team. 

Life is too short!  And besides, angry, stressed out people and teams don’t learn much nor do they have very good insights or innovative ideas.  Anger and criticism blocks the creative channels. In those organizations where innovation and creativity are lacking, look at the senior team and I suspect you will find an emotionally unhealthy group who don’t work well together.  And as we all know, organizations are shadows of their leaders!

(more on The Leadership Side of Planning in a later blog)

Tight Lines . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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