Adaptability: Our Blessing and Our Curse

Adaptability: Our Blessing and Our Curse

We all know adapting in entrepreneurial companies is essential. An agile business that can solve any problem. It is one of the advantages of being a smaller company, right? As an entrepreneur, you have lots of ideas and the freedom to pursue them but imagine this…

Walking out your front door, you see your neighbour and his family frantically running around, packing their car. Everyone is cramming their stuff into the car in a random fashion. It resembles some sort of circus in which no one really knows what each other are doing.

Curious, you ask, “Hey John, what’s going on?”

John responds, “Woo-hoo! I’m so excited. We’re going away. It’s going to be GREAT!”

More curious, you ask, “Sounds interesting, where are you going?”

John, taking a quick breather, “Not sure exactly where we’re going, but we’re leaving right away.”

You: “How long are you gone for?”

John replies, “Not sure on that either. We’ll see what happens.”

You probe further, “Why are you going all of a sudden?”

John explains, “My friend took a trip and it changed his life, so we thought we should too.”

A little concerned and slightly amused now, you ask, “Do you have a map to know where you’re going or did you check that you have gas in the car?”

John answers, “Ummm… no map and not sure about the gas either. We’re just going to figure it out as we go; see where the wind blows us. But don’t worry, it’s going to be GREAT.”

How many businesses do you know that are run like this? Not sure where they’re going, don’t have a roadmap, not sure if they have enough resources, are convinced they will figure it out as they go, and their mantra is, “Sell more stuff and don’t worry, it will be GREAT.” This make-decisions-on-the-fly mentality may appeal to some entrepreneurs, but the harsh reality is, we are the minority.

Entrepreneurs tend to be hard-wired as problem solvers. We believe we can figure out almost any problem. The harder the problem, the more interesting it becomes and the more compelled we feel to solve it. Better yet? Someone tells us we can’t solve it, then we launch a crusade to figure it out. This type of thinking is both a gift and a curse. It is how we create companies out of nothing or solved big problems, but it also can be the root cause of all sorts of trouble.

Who besides us entrepreneurs eagerly boards that make-decisions-on-the-fly bus? Not many. Believe it or not, the majority of the population isn’t wired this way. They like stability and clear direction. People actually prefer stability, the majority of people, in fact.

Perhaps you’re familiar with this example: Your team has been working hard to gain traction on the last idea you brought to them. They poured significant energy, leveraging all of their talents into finding a solution and they have almost it figured out. But now, you bring them a new idea that is “far more important” than last week’s idea. You tell them to simply forget about the last idea and work on the new one. Ouch.

I’ve lived this. My change-driven ideas came from good sources: Books, seminars, other bright entrepreneurs, or our own minds. I was eager to implement these ideas, so I changed course many, many times. My team dutifully played along, following my haphazard leadership approach. I played it off as exciting and that we were a small company and had to adapt. I suppose we were getting better in some ways, but not as quickly as we could have because of this disjointed approach. In a way, I was John, driving that car.

Getting It All Down On Paper

My life changed when I read the book Traction by Gino Wickman. I started using Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS™) and together with my team, we got crystal clear on where we were going and how we would get there. One particular tool called the Vision/Traction Organizer™ (V/TO for short), helped us answer eight simple questions.

  1. Core Values
  2. Core Focus™
  3. 10-Year Target™
  4. Marketing Strategy
  5. 3-Year Picture™
  6. 1-Year Plan
  7. Quarterly Rocks
  8. Issues List

Completing this exercise did three very powerful things for us:

  1. Clarity The exercises allowed me and my team to get my complete vision out of my head and onto paper. My key people joined me in these discussions, so it wasn’t just me creating our vision (For more on involving your key people, check out my previous post. Together, we got crystal clear on who we were (Core Values), what our ‘sweet spot’ was (Core Focus™), where we were headed (10-Year Target™, 3-Year Picture) and what our Marketing Strategy was going to be to get us there. This allowed us to focus our efforts and stop chasing every shiny thing that we saw. We made it REAL.
  2. Simplicity Once our vision was on paper, we had to simplify it because it was far too complex. It needed to be easy for everyone to understand AND remember it. Frankly, who cares if you have an amazing vision if no one can understand nor remember it. We made it SIMPLE.
  3. Traction Once we simplified our vision, people could easily work towards it. We had great people and they wanted to help. Now they knew how and could refer to our 1-Year Plan, Quarterly Rocks, and Issues List. We knew where our ‘car’ was going, had our road map to success and we were all aligned in achieving it; therefore, we got RESULTS.

Adapting, growing and changing is still critical to any business. If we’re not growing, we’re dying. But too much adaption, does not allow any significant traction in any one direction, therefore no true success occurs.

Have you noticed the words at the top of my website, “Real. Simple. Results.”? That’s what I am all about. Decide where you’re going, tell people about it (keep it simple) and go get it. Do that and you won’t need to say, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be great.” People will already know that because you’ve already shared your vision.

Next steps: Download your free Vision/Traction Organizer™

If you, or someone you know, would like help navigating this kind of planning with the leadership team, I would love to have a conversation about how I can help you achieve Vision, Traction and Healthy in your company through EOS™ Implementation. Let’s book a time to chat. Or you can download the EOS™ Tools for FREE.

This blog is a work of passion for me. I would love to hear what you think of my musings, please comment below with your ideas/feedback as it is such an involved topic.

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