Strategy Execution and the Wheel

When I was about 22 I worked for REI. It was one of the best jobs I had ever had. I could not believe I was getting paid to study the latest in outdoor gear and to educate people on how the latest technology would help them with their outdoor experience.

One of the books I read while there was called “The Bicycle Wheel” by Jobst Brandt. I was amazed at the complexity and the importance of the wheel. I learned there was a science to the way a wheel is laced and that each lacing pattern had its positives and negatives. Over the years I have built several wheelsets and enjoy the process of lacing, truing and tensioning a wheel.

Now I help organizations build their strategic plans. I would like to draw a few parallels if I could between a great wheelset and an effective strategic plan.

In my opinion, a quality wheelset is one of the most important investments you can make in your bicycle. The quality of the hub and bearing can literally shave minutes off your time. A great wheelset delivers when you need it to, and it keeps you from getting fatigued over long rides. The wheel is the last thing you want to break, while riding your bike.

Strategy Execution is one of the most important things you can do in your business. It is the thing that drives your business forward and delivers the performance you need when you need it. Having a great strategy and having your staff executing it, will keep them from wasting energy doing things that do not matter to the business. It also gives you the competitive advantage you need to “win the race”.

Just like the bearings of the wheel, when a our strategy is built around meeting our stakeholder’s needs and utilizes the strengths of our business, we are able to decrease  resistance. Simply put our business runs more smoothly and success comes more easily.

A well designed plan is also evenly shared by all the people in your organization. In order for a wheel to be strong the spokes need to be tensioned equally. If one set of spokes is too tight and those around it too loose, our wheel is vulnerable. Hitting a bump in the road in just the wrong way can cause a wheel to “taco” under the pressure.

When our strategic plan is based too much on one person, or the majority of goals and action plans are given to one or two people to accomplish, we lose the strength and support of the rest of the people in the organization and run the risk of catastrophic failure.

A good strategic plan is focused and delegated equally to your leadership so that no one person is carrying too much of the load. Each person knows what they need to do, and is reporting in on a regular basis. This keeps our business rolling forward with as little resistance as possible.

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