Speed Happens Before the Starting Line

Speed Happens Before the Starting Line

“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” — Robert H. Schuller

It seems obvious when someone wins an elite level road race that substantial preparation happened before the athlete stepped to the start line. There was preparation by the athlete and also by the race directors.  For example, the NYC marathon has over 100 year-round staff and more than 6000 volunteers who organize the race many, many months before the runners arrive on race day.

Despite this obvious truth, many organizations do not put the proper preparation into being ready for the starting line of their projects.

Executives must answer a very important question before the project begins.

They must consider the priority of the project in contrast to all the other projects that are running.  What is the expected Return on Investment of this Project?  How important is it to the business? How risky is it?

If they decide this is the highest priority project, then all other actions should follow to ensure that the project is ready to run a world-class race.

If this project is low-priority in comparison to others, it can be given preparation akin to that of a leisurely Sunday fun-run.

Either way, the preparation is not an optional part of the process.

How do the most important projects in your organization start?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

PS:  My 100+ Questions book is now available for Kindle.  There are good questions in this book to help guide insights early in the development process.

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Focus and Creativity

Focus and Creativity

Knock, Knock. Who’s there? Interrupting cow. Interrupting cow wh–MOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

Respect the stop sign when you see it on my office door. I taught that to my kids at a young age. Why do I find it so important? When it comes to creative work, there is a high need for interrupt-free time. The ability to shut out the outside world allows one to get into the flow. Interrupt-free time increases the amount of time invested in creative work. It increases speed to value. Interrupts are also one of the key causes of making mistakes in work products. So interrupt free time increases quality and reduces rework later. Again, this focus increases speed to value. I have worked with many teams to install the concept of interrupt-free time. This is often a challenge in work environments where everyone expects instant responses to phone calls, text messages, instant messages, and random drop-by-the-office visits. One team put up “do not cross police tape” around their cubes. At first, others were offended by this yellow obstruction to the status-quo. After people saw the results generated by the team, they began to implement their own versions of stop signs. Have you created your interrupt-free zone?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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Fast Sometimes Looks Slow. Look Closer.

Fast Sometimes Looks Slow. Look Closer.

“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.” – Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Outside my hotel window in Arlington, VA, I could see a large footbridge. The bridge was resting on the ground in a parking area. It was built there over a period of a few months. Where it was built caused no inconvenience to the traffic at its intended destination. Today it is being transported about 1 mile to be a footbridge over a very busy road. The moving of the bridge was a “slow” process. It took days to prepare for the move. It took all day to move it the mile to its location. It will be fully installed and people will be walking across it within a very short amount of time. This new bridge will improve traffic for pedestrians and drivers. The way in which this improvement was accomplished was also the best for the people and cars. Instead of an install over months that would have been a tremendous inconvenience for everyone traveling that way, there was just one afternoon of detours. Some of my consulting projects follow this wise pattern. I just completed a job where I worked with key people to completely build and tailor a new set of methods, whole new ways of working, for teams. We did this in a metaphorical parking lot that was near the team, but not in the way. We involved the team and they were able to watch the work in progress without slowing down their current work. When we were done, we relaunched the team and the project with the new methods. They are quite happy with the results and moving much faster. Are you building bridges to speed?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

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Three Things I Learned on the Inspired Leadership Show

Three Things I Learned on the Inspired Leadership Show

“The conversations you have with yourself are the most important conversations you will ever have” – Kelsey Low

One of the delightful things in being interviewed is that I always learn something new. Angie and Kelsey’s show is so dynamic I learned many things. Here are my top three.
  1. Angie and Kelsey are a leadership force. A business team that absolutely clicks is a marvel, and this has the amazing added delight of being a daughter-mother team. Their energy is contagious.
  2. There is always at least one question that surprises me. That is an interesting challenge when that occurs. They managed to do that many times.
  3. Inspiration is an investment.
That last learning point is the most powerful. I know that I do my best work when I am inspired. Doing their fun show I realized explicitly something that I did know implicitly. That inspiration can be earned through investment of my own time and energy. You can sign up for my interview and many others here: Inspired Leadership Show Invest in your own inspiration.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

Recently I was interviewed by Angie and Kelsey Low (above) for their new Inspired Leadership Show.

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A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

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Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

The Power and Problem of Achieving Your Biggest Goals

The Power and Problem of Achieving Your Biggest Goals

“There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.'” – Carrie Fisher

Three different clients of mine achieved their most powerful goals this past week. For two of them, the big achievement was followed by a big emotional letdown. It was not at all how they had expected to feel. I assured them that this actually often happens, even to those who win gold medals in the Olympic Games. Like people training for the Olympics, my clients were putting in extra effort daily for a very long period of time. They were constantly focused on the goal. The actual achievement of the milestone was a peak experience. There was extraordinary stress for a short period of time as they pushed themselves over the top. And they achieved the goal. Like returning Olympians, they found the next days and weeks incredibly ordinary compared to their peak, albeit stressful, experience. One of my three clients didn’t experience this letdown after her big win. I coached my other clients on the differences. Focus on the joy of the journey just as much as on achieving the destination. After all, the journey to achieving big milestones often exceeds 99% of the time spent. For example, years of preparation gets a very few people to the SuperBowl and that is only one hour of game time long. The best journeys do typically have bold destinations. Determine your next big goals and why they are powerful for you. Prepare so those next goals are sitting on the horizon waiting for you once the present milestone is achieved. Consider this not just as a personal challenge but a leadership challenge. Are you leading people on a quest to climb a metaphorical mountain? Are you encouraging everyone to enjoy the view whilst on this epic journey? Are you getting ready to face future challenges?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

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ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Sweat Faster!

Sweat Faster!

“What you sweat is what you get.”– Nina Agdal

Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” The metaphor Edison was using and many other quotes mirror is that the more we sweat over our ideas, the sooner we get to the great value they will provide for others. This has truth to it and it is also has a lot of wrong in it. I saw the Edison quote recently and I realized the next book I am in the process of writing is all about the 99% perspiration part of the equation. It is not the amount of sweat as much as it is “sweating the right way” – in the way to pick up speed. It is about increasing the speed, the power, and the agility of your engines of development. Sweat by itself won’t win the race. Sweat by itself without the right focus and without the right purpose does not add the right strength to athletes or to organizations. Working the wrong muscles in the wrong way is like developing ideas with the wrong design and the wrong approach. It leads to injury in athletes and leads to massive rework and slowness in organizations. My next book is called Leading with Speed. It is about how sweat better. How to sweat faster. How to sweat with style. It will give you the tools you need to make every drop of sweat count. For this week, I leave you with you 3 questions.
1. Are your goals motivating? 2. Are putting the sweat in to make them come true? 3. Is that 99% perspiration as fast and effective as it should be?
If you want to go faster, better call Alan.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.