“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?