Stay the Course

“Giant timber bamboo can grow 90 feet in 60 days – that’s a foot and a half a day!  Some claim that you can hear it grow…What’s even more amazing…is that once it’s planted, it takes a least three years to break through the ground.” – Greg Bell – excerpts from his book Water the Bamboo

Recently my leadership team and I met to update, challenge, refine, and if necessary, revise our long term strategic plan for 2016. A precursor to the annual budgeting process, the strategic plan is meant to set the long term objectives for the company, map a path backwards toward those objectives, and define the interim priorities that will be necessary to achieve that plan.  We call it our Three Year Strategic Plan, or TYSP, and it’s what feeds our Strategic Execution Framework (SEF), our Plan to Win, and our annual budget process. 

To be fair, we as a leadership team don’t wait for some annual “alarm” to indicate time for our strategic plan review.  In fact, we revisit and discuss our strategy on at least a quarterly basis (if not monthly), and we review our progress on a weekly basis.  Committing to a strategy and executing against it is hard work and it takes persistence and diligence to reach your objectives. 

At any rate, in preparation for these strategy sessions I tend to spend time researching new trends, approaches, and best practices to the strategic planning process.  I’ll also dust off past reads from my favorite business strategy and leadership gurus – like Jim Collins and Peter Drucker. This process not only helps identify new methods for unlocking the potential of an organization, it gives you a chance to step back and gain a different perspective – to look from the outside in (so to speak).

Which leads me to this week’s leadership quote from a book written by Greg Bell entitled Water the Bamboo.  A short and quick read, its wisdom provides insight both in to business and personal success.  If you haven’t read the book, it’s worth the time.

What struck me most about this quote is the relevance it has to one of my biggest weaknesses – patience.  It has always plagued me.  I’m not one to wait, and when I have to it drives me nuts.  In fact, part of my success in business has been BECAUSE of that impatience.  I’ve even preached a time or two (on this very blog) about the importance of constant change.  And to be fair, change is good, and impatience when properly directed can be very powerful.  But so too can patience – or a lack thereof – be a detriment. 

And here is where the quote really struck home.  Looking at our results on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis can mask the delicate but necessary development that must occur before an organization can grow.  Just as the giant timber bamboo takes three years to develop “underground” before it even breaks the surface, so to can an organization take time to develop and evolve through fundamental changes. 

Thus was the question we asked ourselves as a leadership team – 1) Do we believe in our vision and strategy?  2) Are we committed to its development? 3) Do we recognize the undergrowth that is occurring? And 4) Do we have the patience to see it through?  The answer to the first three is a resounding YES.  The answer to the fourth question is where the true challenge lies – yes, we are committed, but we must also have the patience and faith to see it through.

The lesson of the bamboo is not one solely reserved for business success, but fundamentally consistent with personal success.  It’s the very same principles we should apply in pursuing personal success – both in our careers and our personal lives. 

So, how about you?  When you make long term choices do you see them through?  Do you recognize that fundamental, lasting change doesn’t happen overnight?  And more importantly, will you stay the course?

8 thoughts on “Stay the Course

  1. Having opened a new Manpower branch office 23 years ago with no customers and no employees, I can relate with your reference to commitment, patience, and faith. We must be deliberate, methodical, flexible and willing to change when needed in order to achieve sustainable growth. And, if we have faith, then it becomes a natural thing to have patience.

  2. Kip I think the hardest part is Patience when you once were once successful and then for reasons outside of our control you fail and then have to start all over again. it’s a difficult lesson to learn. So what I have learned is perseverance. The word patience is too passive for me, but perseverance is a great word that connotes you are causing activity for a positive result even with strong headwinds. So to persevere is to have worked through, survived, and caused change, positively hopefully. Just a play on words, but for me actionable and goal oriented. That way I don’t have to climb the walls wrestling with patience (a quality I do not have either).

    • Sage advice, and I agree with the use of perseverance vs. patience. Perseverance I can handle, but sometimes my patience (or lack thereof) to see the intermittent progress is often the challenge.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • I agree. I have generally been successful in most positions that I have held and have always hit my numbers. The current position I am having to deal with patience. In the short time I have been in my new position I have turned over almost the entire staff, and I am having to wait on the replacements to be trained and finally get to the store. During this time I have not been able to hit the goals because of the staffing situation. Once they get here I will have to wait for them to develop, and that too will take patience .

  3. Hi Kip, Great insights to strategic planning. The bamboo analogy makes total sense and is important in setting expectation maintain the motivation to stay the course with the right Goal, Strategy, Plan and Execution. Plus it is key to have some patience when results are not always immediate. It also makes you think about having the right foundation in people, process and technology to maximize the TYSP so to capture all the potential growth
    Best of Luck in 2015 and Beyond!


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