In my mid- to late- twenties, I was part of a volunteer search and rescue ground crew on Vancouver Island. As someone who loved being outdoors and who wanted to learn new skills – and connect with others who shared my love of being outside – it was a perfect blend of volunteering and expanding on my knowledge base.
A core element of any ground search and rescue training program in BC is learning how to read and use topographical maps to chart your path from point A to point B. As a newbie, one always draws a straight line and charts their journey accordingly. However, more experienced searchers (of whom I become one), knew that it often easier to get to point B if you read the topography (or the lay of the land) between point A and point B.
In many cases, the land itself (that big mountain, steep cliff, or deep chasm) became an obstacle that would be difficult to overcome if you took the direct route. However, by reading the map, you could discover simpler, and easier paths that skirted these obstacles and saved you time and energy.
The path chosen (whether you read the map perfectly or not) was not always perfect, you might still encounter obstacles that reflected current realities. However, by reading the map in detail, you became more familiar with the terrain, planned for the BIG obstacles, and were better prepared to modify the path if needed.
So, that’s a great lesson in map reading and path selection…. BUT what does it have to do with business? Ahhh, I’m really glad you asked.
For me the strategic action plan that I set out at the beginning of the year is much like laying out a path on a map. The plan, like the map, provides me with information I need to make decisions. It defines my route, what I need to do, and when I can expect to get to certain mileposts. It also helps me to assess and plan for the BIG obstacles I might encounter along the way.
The strategic action plan also focuses my attention on the end destination or result… what it is I want to accomplish. So as I encounter sudden changes in the marketplace, my marketing doesn’t quite work according to the plan, or I lose a key staff member, I have my eye on the end result I am working to achieve.
Knowing where I am going helps me to fine-tune the questions I need to ask myself around any business challenge that I might encounter. And, by asking myself questions that still move me towards the end result, I can often dig my way through the challenge quickly and efficiently – thereby re-adjusting the plan while maintaining the momentum.
As we all know though, life doesn’t always go according to the PLAN. And even when we have carefully mapped out the easiest, most efficient route to get to point B (our goal), life sometimes throws new obstacles in our way. The good news is that if we’ve set out the path, the destination remains the same. It is just how you are going to get to your final destination that changes.
I’d love to hear how you re-adjust your plans mid-stride when an unforeseen obstacle comes up. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.