Part Three: The Leadership Side of Planning . . .

(You might want to read Part One and Part Two . . . )

My daughter is bilingual, both French and English.  Having spent her first few years of school in France and growing up with her mother speaking only French, her English vocabulary is not as well developed.  So I am trying to get her to do something that I did as a young boy, read the English Dictionary.  While it may look daunting (it’s a very thick book) and seem boring (I found it fascinating with definitions, etymology and different meanings, and pictures), of all the books I have ever read the Dictionary helped me the most in later life.

At this point I’m not being too successful at getting her to read the Dictionary (too many more pleasant distractions in today’s world), so I am borrowing a tactic from Leo Buscalia about coming to the dinner table ready to talk about the one new thing she learned today (if it was an uneventful day at school, she can always scan the dictionary before dinner and find a new word to talk about).

The point here is, we often go through life having lots of experiences but rarely do we take the time to think about “what I learned from this experience”.  It’s a good discipline to establish early in life (another Good Habit Rabbit analogy).

And, what’s all this got to do with business and leadership?

As you probably realize from my previous blogs and articles, I am focused on improving organizations through better leadership and work processes. A very useful leadership process I came across years ago at a technology client is called the quarterly What-Are-We-Learning (WAWL) strategy meeting.  This is not a typical strategy review meeting, but a discussion focused on what the senior team is learning as they implement and execute their business strategy.  Usually chaired by the CEO, the WAWL meeting can provide powerful insights into improving the quality of both planning and execution.  And the discussions are rich and informative.  As a result of a WAWL meeting I have witnessed both personal and organizational learning that has led to significant process improvements and better execution.

Planning is not an event. It is the continuous process of strengthening what works and abandoning what does not.                        – Peter Drucker

Too often I find executive diaries crammed with back-to-back meetings with absolutely no time for reflection.  I often hear the lament: “I can’t even find time to go to the restroom”.

You don’t find time, you make time. 

And I’m not talking about restroom breaks.  I’m referring to the habit of making time to review events, develop insights and gain new learning from your business activities on a regular basis.  By developing good business and learning processes, like the WAWL meeting, we can continue to learn and grow.

A few hints:

  • Program into your diary an hour each day, usually towards the end to review the day’s activities and cement what you learned.
  • Set aside an hour at the end of the week and write down your learning and insights in a special journal.
  • Schedule a WAWL meeting with your senior team every quarter.
  • Start each weekly staff meeting with a short discussion asking for any significant learning from the previous week.

If you are not learning something new each week to improve yourself as a leader or improve your organization’s ability to perform, then you are not doing your job.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.                                  – John F. Kennedy

Tight Lines . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is 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 or
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