what are you building to last?

What are you building to last?

The wooded park down the street has miles of trails. It feels like being in a forest with tall trees, a stream and the elevation changes you’d expect on a hike. And in the middle of it all stands a chimney with a sign that says it was built by Ken Custards in 1930. It was built to last.

Just like that chimney, we build things in our companies and lives. Some are meant to last a short time, while others are meant to last much longer. What are you building to last?

Be clear about your objectives

Be clear about expectationsYou need to be clear about what has to be accomplished, and you need to share it broadly. If you don’t, your brilliant team will turn into a second-grade soccer match; it’ll degrade into a bunch of people running around, without a strategy, pushing the ball all over the place, but not necessarily towards the goal.


are you watching out for risks ahead?

Are you charging ahead or hesitating?

There’s a blind corner at one particular spot on the daily walk. And when I say corner, it is a really long, rounded corner with a waist high cinder block wall with a 6 foot fence on top that seems to take forever to traverse.

Although we take the walk almost every day, as soon as we get to that corner, my dog starts pulling really hard and starts going even faster. What might we encounter that we can’t see? She is charging hard to find out!

In business, there are lots of blind corners too. We’ve been on the road before, but today there might be something new on the way. Do you charge ahead fast to find out? Do you proceed cautiously? Do you hesitate? Each approach has its upsides and drawbacks. If you aren’t prepared for them. Which do you choose?

do you know what is going on when you are not around?

What is going on when you are not around?

My rescue dog is reactive toward other dogs, so we go for walks early. Really early. When fewer dogs are around. And often we see things that you wouldn’t when people and cars are around. One recent morning, a pair of coyotes were in the middle of the road, just standing there. Probably hunting. A rather large owl was perched further up the road in a tree hooting. Ducks squawk loudly at the pond. And periodically, a deer can be seen grazing. All these critters are gone as soon as people come out.

The same happens in business. Things happen when you aren’t there. Some of it is creative and positive. Other times it isn’t. What is going on when you aren’t around?

how do you get perspective?

How do you get perspective?

When I go for walks in the area, there are frequently hawks and eagles flying above or sitting on power lines or high up in trees. From that height, they get a perspective of what is going on on the ground, and can easily find their prey. From a higher level, they get a broad perspective.

The same is true in business. It is hard to get perspective when you are in the trenches. It’s important to step back and get perspective. How do you step away to get yours?

how do you spot opportunities?

Are you spotting opportunities or challenges?

Deer aren’t typically out in my area. But recently, I noticed one nibbling on a bush off the main path. Most people probably wouldn’t have even noticed it was there because it was on a small path that was mostly obscured by a fence and bushes. As soon as I stopped to take a peek and a picture, it ran off into more densely packed bushes.

In business, there are opportunities and challenges lurking all over the place. The trick is keeping your eyes open to spot them. Is your organization structured to keep an eye open to opportunities or challenges?

how do you assess risk?

How are people self assessing risk in your business?

Every morning I see rabbits all over the place. Some are on their own, while others are in groups. On one particular morning, there was a group of four nibbling on the grass. As I approached, three ran up the hill and into a bush. The fourth ran down the hill, paused and watched me as I walked by.

Everyone has their own perception and tolerance for risk. But in business, that can be problematic if individual tolerance for risk is too permissive or too restrictive. How are you making sure you get the balance you want in your business?

how clear are you about your purpose?

How clear are you about your purpose?

A few weeks ago, I went for a hike by Mt. St. Helens. It’s a popular spot and there were a lot of people there. One woman found a family of chipmunks and was taking pictures. Another family with a 4 month old and a 5 year old were “starting them young.” A local hiking group was out for their weekly hike. And a young man was there to get exercise and was moving faster than everyone else on the trail. They all had different purposes and designed their hike to suit their purpose. And they all seemed to be having a great time.

In business, being clear about the purpose of the company and sticking to it is important to attracting the right people for the business and delivering the promise to customers. How clear are you about your purpose?

how far should it bend before being replaced

How far should it bend before being replaced so it doesn’t break?

Every day about noon, the wind picks up and blows pretty aggressively. On one particular street, the daily gusts have shaped the trees so they are permanently bent sideways from the wind. And in the morning, seeing the trees with their sideway lean causes one to wonder if a different landscape design would have been chosen if the designer knew this would be the outcome.

The same sorts of bending of organizations happens all the time to accommodate the daily flow of business. And eventually, the bending becomes permanent. The question is, do you leave something in place that is not designed to work that way, but has adapted as best it could? Or, do you remove it and put something more functional in its place?

how are you making sure quality issues don't slip through the cracks?

How will you make sure quality defects don’t slip through the cracks?

Last week, I got a new package of toilet paper. The plastic wrap around it felt a little loose. And when I opened the package, I found out why. Clearly there was a manufacturing issue that resulted in one of the rolls being pretty narrow. Something was off in the quality control department and no-one caught it or someone let it through with an obvious issue.

A lot has changed in the last year. But standards in quality and delivery of service today shouldn’t be one of them. People will notice. Do you have processes and systems in place to alert you when something is off? How will you make sure quality defects don’t slip through the cracks?