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Not long after getting her driver’s license, my daughter was driving her car in town. She was on her way home from school when the serpentine belt broke. Although the car continued to run, there was no power steering. If you have ever tried to steer a car with power steering when the power steering is not functioning, you know how difficult it is. She was retelling this story the other night and was recalling how she was unable to turn the wheel (and she is pretty strong). I know it can be difficult, but she should still be able to drive/steer even without power steering. Finally, it dawned on me, and I asked her, “Were you moving?” She was not. She was trying to turn the stationary wheels by brute force to aim where she wanted to go. “If that ever happens again,” I told her, “start moving and then turn the wheel. It’s much easier to turn if you are already moving.”
Think of your organization as a ship on the water. To effectively navigate your ship, you need to know where you want it to go, and you must put it in motion. If either component is missing, you will be “dead in the water” or wandering the vast seas aimlessly. Those are not sustainable business practices. Without strategy, the destination is unknown. Without motion, there is no ability to steer.
Related: Who’s Steering the Ship?
Strategy or planning should be done before launching. However, now is much better than “later” and infinitely better than “never.” The life of your organization (not to mention your livelihood and that of your employees) depends on effective planning. Would you ever embark on a voyage as the ship’s captain without charting your course on a map and ensuring you have all the tools needed to make course corrections along the way? That would be foolhardy at best and most likely a deadly course of action. If your company or nonprofit is the vehicle you have chosen to maneuver through your career, planning should be just as important to you in your voyage.
There are all kinds of resources, tools, methodologies, and coaches to help you identify and chart a course to where you want to go. Choose one. Ultimately, you need to know and operate out of your “why” so that you can reach your “ideal destination.” Whatever system you use (and I strongly encourage you to find and use a system like iNautilus™), it should help you clarify your purpose and vision along with a well-thought-out path to get there.
Strategy without motion, however, is merely wasted ink on paper. Offices and board rooms abound with mission, vision, or other strategy statements hanging on walls, unattended and forgotten. You can know where you want to go and have the best plan to get there, but you will never arrive if you do not move forward. A stationary ship cannot be steered. You can turn the rudder all you want, but you will not change direction. Motion is necessary before you can steer.
However, once you are in motion, you can steer anywhere. That is the beauty and freedom of organizational movement. You choose your own adventure. Even if you need to turn around and head in the opposite direction, begin to move. You may have to travel the wrong way for a short time to “come around.” One of the reasons I like the ship analogy for business so much is that ships only move forward. The only way to turn around is to move forward and navigate. In our household, my wife likes to say, “It’s OK to get stuck once in a while. But don’t stay stuck.” Inaction (non-motion) is simply staying stuck in whatever your current situation is. So, take action. Take a step. Just get moving so that you can get on with navigating to your ideal destination.
In addition, voyages come with obstacles. There are winds and waves, reefs and ice burgs. Without strategy and motion, your ship will be blown around by the winds in life and tossed about by the waves. Worse yet, without a navigable strategy, your ship could be broken apart by a reef or an ice burg. You are at the mercy of circumstances. Planning helps to mitigate these risks. You can account for weather patterns and steer clear of known obstacles. For your organization, this might involve projecting the seasonality of customer purchasing, gauging the marketing strategies of competitors, or anticipating trends in the economy.
Motion provides control, allowing you to steer around dangers and adjust your course to accommodate changing winds. Even as the unforeseen happens, motion provides momentum and the agility to pivot. These will help you face issues like a period of low sales numbers, the loss of a key employee, or a global pandemic that changes the face of business around the world. Control what you can, but react well to the things you cannot.