Missing the sign

Missing the Sign

At the entrance to the trail, there’s a driveway with a chain across it with sign that says “Do Not Block Driveway.” You’re not supposed to block driveways, but just in case, most driveways have a sign. And one day recently, someone parked in the driveway. They were probably so excited to hit the trail, they just missed the sign.

The same thing happens in business all the time. People are excited to get going or not paying attention and they miss the signs that indicate a different action is needed. And that’s why it is so important that leaders make the signs big enough so people don’t miss them.

4th of July

Independence Day

Many people in the US will celebrate tomorrow with family and friends, lots of food, music, and fireworks.

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate today? It was not the start of the American Revolution—that was years earlier. It wasn’t the end of it—that was many years later. It wasn’t even the date that the Continental Congress voted for the resolution of independence—that was July 2. July 4 was the date the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence.

The celebration of July 4 was not widespread until the late 19th century. Some argued the proper date to celebrate was July 2. But, it wasn’t until 1870 that July 4 became a federal holiday, then in 1941, a paid federal holiday.

It seems the founding fathers knew declaring your intention is the most important thing you can do. After all, that is when momentum actually starts to build.

Do you declare your intentions? Once you do, you’ll find you are more likely to accomplish your goals.

Have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July!

do you have the infrastructure in place for growth?

Do you have the infrastructure in place for growth?

Somehow they just know. Every year, I grow tomatoes. And somehow the plants know early in the season what the size of the harvest will be. Temperature, light exposure, precipitation. Nature signals the plant telling it what will come. The bigger the harvest, the bigger the stem to support what will come. The plant grows the infrastructure it needs to support what it will produce. And it is usually spot on.

Business isn’t always as intuitive as nature. Leaders don’t always know how fast to build out the infrastructure of an organization such that it is in place as the business grows and fills in. Sometimes the signals are there, other times they aren’t. The trick is to watch for them and build out the infrastructure to support growth.

when interests are in conflict

When interests are in conflict

The battle raged for weeks. The people riding bikes liked long, straight, downhill trails. But those steep, straight trails lead to erosion when it gets rainy. So, the trail keepers created switchbacks years ago, planting over the trail they eliminated. This year, the bikes rode through those plantings and started re-establishing trails. The trail keepers moved logs to block the trails, which were promptly moved by the bikers. After several back and forths, the logs were tossed down the hill. Then piles of thick branches appeared and have been there for a few weeks, signaling the end of the battle.

The battle over the trail design was a classic battle of interest. Bikers wanted straight paths to ride down quickly. Trail keepers want to keep the trails from eroding. These sorts of battles happen all the time in business. People have different interests, and often times come from a place of good intentions. The trick is understanding what is driving the interest and finding common ground.

two deer, two strategies

A lesson from deer on business strategy

The crackle of movement through the woods caught our attention. Moments later, a deer came leaping down the hill, across the trail and disappeared into the trees and brush on the other side. It didn’t stopped, it just proceeded full speed ahead. Behind it was another deer that stopped in the brush to observe the two people and dog looking at it from the trail. We stared at each other for a few moments until the deer decided it could proceed leaping down the hill, across the trail and disappear on the other side. Two deer, two approaches.

There are all sorts of business models that are more or less effective depending upon the environment. Like the deer, full speed ahead without worrying about risk can be highly effective. Other times, observing risk before proceeding makes sense. And sometimes either one will work. Figuring out which makes sense and when is important to long term survival.

explosive growth

Explosive Growth

For months, the forest was dormant. The evergreen trees were green, but everything else that has leaves seasonally were bare. No ferns, no small plants that line the floor. Just the look of winter. Then all of a sudden, the temperature went from lows in the 30’s and highs in the 50’s to 90 degree highs with lows in the high 50’s. And the forest exploded. What was bare filled in within a two week timeframe. The conditions were present for explosive growth and that’s what happened.

The same conditions can happen in business too. Things chug along at with a regular, predictable pace. Then something changes, creating an environment for explosive growth. The trick is watching closely enough to know when that change is about to occur and position for it.

are old rules being updated to reflect new conditions?

Pictures, Tom Hanks and Marketing

Tom Hanks was in town last week to give a talk about his new novel. As he walked out onto the stage, people clapped and got their phones out to take a picture. The security staff and ushers swarmed the aisles telling people not to take photos. The commotion lasted about 5 minutes before everything settled down and the program got underway.

Why no pictures? It was just a curtain, two chairs, a table with the book displayed, Tom Hanks and the person discussing the book with him. The point of doing book talks is to generate a buzz and get more people to buy the book. And social media is a great way for people to share a picture and get the word out. The old rules seem to be at odds with the new way of marketing.

There’s probably some explanation for why this tradition is still in place. But sometimes old rules stick around because no-one challenges them and updates them for the current environment. And that leads to suboptimal performance.

rules vs guidelines

Rules vs. Guidelines. And Who Decides

The playground portion of the park has been under construction for months. Parts are complete while others are in progress. The county put a fence around it for what can be assumed are safety issues and a desire not to have in progress portions damaged.

And still, parents disassemble the fence in places and pry it apart in others so they can squeeze through so their kids can play. At other times parents stand on the outside with their kids looking at what is to come. Some view the fence as a rule that is meant to keep people out, while others look at as a guideline that the park can be used depending upon the conditions at the time.

At work, the same thing happens. Some people look at a situation and believe rules are in place that need to be followed, while others think they are guidelines that allow for usage. The trick for leaders is establishing a common understanding of rules vs. guidelines and when they apply.

beautiful things

Beautiful things

It was time. Every year, the gray skies give way to blue, sunny days. And when that happens, the driveway screams that it needs to be power washed. So out I went for the annual ritual. And part way through, a beautiful blue dragonfly flew right in front of me across the driveway. It had been ages since I’d last seen one. And a delight for that moment.

Even in the most mundane, tedious work, beautiful moments can happen if you watch for them.

life cycles

Life Cycles

Over the last few weeks, the Pacific Northwest trillium has been in bloom. The flower starts out white, then turns light pink and eventually a dark pink before it reaches the end of its life cycle.  The color is the indicator of which stage it is in.

Products and services have life cycles too. And it takes a little more work to tell if it is early stage, mature or in decline. But a quick survey of the market will give a directional indication. That’s the step that gets overlooked. Knowing where you are in the life cycle to inform what to do next.