Road trip rush

Competing effectively today is like driving on the L.A. freeway system. This occurred to me when I recently took a business trip to Southern California where I had meetings with  NBC in both Burbank and Los Angeles. I’d rented a car but passed on renting a GPS system.  I reasoned that I know the freeway system well enough where I was scheduled to meet.

Then I had an unexpected event that required a trip to Altadena via a route I didn’t know as well. Armed with my iPhone, which I call with great admiration “the magic phone,” I quickly mapped out my route.

In Los Angeles you have to pay high attention at all times when driving.  The freeway system there is a beautiful, efficient means of transport. The gleaming concrete stretches across hundreds of square miles like a rushing river of metal. Cars whiz by at 70 or 75 MPH (no one, it seems obeys the speed limit there) weaving in and out of ramps, exits, and six-lane changes. If you blink you’ve missed the way. Or have a very bad accident.

Life is like a freeway

This is where my realization came in. I had my course plotted out. I was following it dutifully.  I maneuvered the quick lane changes with aplomb, crossing four lanes of traffic in a very short distance to make the next freeway change, shortly followed by more hair raising lane changes, all with cars speeding on every side.

What a powerful metaphor for business and life today! All those other cars are like your competitors. You’re all going full speed ahead. If you don’t pay attention, your competitor will rush right past you in seconds. One mistake and you’ve taken the wrong road. You waste time getting back on track while you competitor has gained ground on you. Sometime a change of route is intended.  The road is closed and you have to find a new way. The winnings go to the one who found the best solution first.

High awareness is required of us every single day. The ability to think quickly and to change quickly is vital.  This is our own built-in GPS system. Plot a course. Then go fast. Go far.

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Category : Leadership | Blog

Yesterday I was involved in the two-hour live telecast of the Portland Rose Festival’s Grand Floral Parade. It’s the second largest all-floral parade in the country, and the biggest event in Portland, Oregon.  Live television broadcasts and athletic contests both give us the opportunity to know in a very short window how well you’ve prepared. You either win the game, or you don’t. The broadcast either goes well, or it doesn’t.

It’s a lot like life, and a lot like managing any project.  Here’s a checklist for any project.

  1. Understand the steps you need to take for success. Assign timelines to each of those steps.
  2. Imagine the worst possible scenario and plan for that. What is your “showstopper?” Plan for the worst and hope for the best.
  3. Make sure you have the right mix of people on the project with all required skills.
  4. Assess your own strengths and weaknesses with honesty. Put people in place with strength in your weak areas.
  5. Communicate to other team members in detail.
  6. You must have back-up plans. It is not enough to have just a Plan B. You have to have a Plan C and preferably a Plan D too.
  7. Always do a “pre-flight check.”  Make sure everything is working and that people know their roles.
  8. Avoid complacency.  Arrogance causes blindness; blindness to your competitors, or new problems that must be addressed.
  9. Believe in your project. If you don’t love it, who will?

Remember to take notes during the project on what’s working and what isn’t. Bring team members together afterward to discuss what can be done better next time. Several small improvements can make a significant difference in your product, your service, your life!

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Category : Leadership | Blog