In periods of uncertainty and relentless change, (that would appear to be the ‘new normal’), the last thing you want to be is lost. There are business lessons to learn from map reading.
A couple of months ago, I volunteered to compete in a relatively demanding race for the charity FirstLight Trust. The idea was fairly military in its format, with each team required to march across Exmoor, carrying 30 lbs in their rucksack, over 30 miles of undulating terrain, via various manned checkpoints. The race started at 3am, it was dark, very wet and the going ‘squelchy’ under foot, to say the least. Visibility remained low for much of the morning. It had been a long time since I did something as crazy as this ‘in the field’. The challenge brought back memories of my time on the test week of ‘P Company’ Parachute Selection course, held in the Brecon Beacons; I was 20 years old then and I wondered how crazy I was to sign up to this charity challenge, given that I was now past the half century marker and more used to working in an office environment and where a sixty minute dog walk was enough to exercise me.
Beyond obvious fitness requirements, the key to successful completion of the challenge was excellent navigation. There is nothing more morale sapping than having to walk further than you have to because of poor map reading. As our team were within two miles of the finish, with 28 miles of good map reading behind us, our senses were slightly dulled, our boots were soaked through and our rucksacks were starting to dig into our shoulders. To take our minds off the last leg, we then became distracted over a minor discussion, about Brexit of all things. Just ten minutes later, I had drifted off our compass bearing and taken a route the wrong side of a small re-entrant. It was not obvious to start with and it is easily done, especially if you have succeeded up until a certain point, or there is a more comfortable path to take, or you fix your gaze on an irrelevant feature ahead of you, or ignore your compass. However, subconsciously I knew that what I was seeing on the ground around me was diverging from what my 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map showed.
You probably realise that I am not just telling a story here - this is the same in business. Now, as the navigator, CEO or business leader, once committed, you want to be right, and it’s easy to make the situation fit the original plan - you may get that ‘sunk cost fallacy’ feeling where you should crack on despite all the contrary evidence around you; you may want to conveniently deny what is going on. I’m sure you know what I mean; bending the facts in front of you - confirmation bias if you like. In my case, it was only when we had gone a little further and the small re-entrant to my left had become a substantial valley, to which we were on the wrong side, that it was obvious we were not where we were supposed to be. This is when you face the uncomfortable situation of admitting that you are wrong, not just to yourself, but also to your team, and you need to reassess your position, swear a lot (in my case), and then make a plan to get back on track.
In periods of uncertainty and relentless change (that would appear to be the 21st Century’s ‘new normal’), the last thing you want to be is lost. And I do not necessarily mean literally ‘lost on the moors’ like I had temporarily been, but more lost in business terms. Not knowing how healthy your business is, (be that with its finances, its people, its products or its service) and being unable to understand what is going on around your business (be that future plans, the competition, the market conditions or the economic situation) is an awkward place to be. It will certainly stop you from making the right decisions and is likely to set your business off in the wrong direction and decrease team performance.
Yet the experience of making decisions based upon wrong or outdated information is all too common, whether it is because leaders are not reading the current situation correctly, or they are getting the wrong feeds, or possibly they may be deceiving themselves. Lastly, they may just be in denial to themselves or worse still, to others. This is best demonstrated by executive boards that do not know what the nature of their business is anymore, or they have not noticed that a complicated situation has turned complex or even chaotic and continue to apply strategies that no longer apply to their business or that particular process. To use the navigational analogy, they have no idea where north is, or they are on the wrong bearing or using an outdated map, or are operating with a faulty compass.
There are, of course, ways out of this position, and SixFigureGrid has developed a combination of military decision-making techniques that can be used effectively in the business world to improve awareness, create agility and strengthen resilience.
In some worlds, people might call me a business mentor and consultant, but I see myself as a catalyst to change the way leaders think and behave, so that they can become more agile and deliver better outcomes.
Team Development through Battlefield Tours