A Horse With No Legs
Great goals are great beginnings but goals alone never reach great endings.
“Move beyond goals; focus on specific tasks.”
Dean Brenner in “Share the Sandbox”
A goal without action items is a horse with no legs; it looks good from a distance but it never takes you anywhere. Tasks are points of execution.
Teams get stuck on can’t do’s. Every team has a, “We can’t do that because…” conversation. Obstacles and challenges become excuses not to execute. Never let what you can’t do prevent you from doing what you can.
Execution in an imperfect world:
There are always good reasons not to pursue great goals. One category of reasons not to move forward is labeled “things we can’t control.” Brenner suggests two responses to the uncontrollable:
- Accept. Stop obsessing.
- Adapt. When the wind blows against you, adjust the sails.
“Control the controllable first.” Dean Brenner
When your team gets stuck on what can’t be done ask, “What can we do?” Create simple points of execution. Give legs to the horse, if not, you’re glued where you are.
How do you work through obstacles to find execution points?
How do you design effective execution points?
I have to laugh, Dan: horses with no legs = glue? You really have the horse metaphors going here today.
They will be stuck in my mind all day for sure!
Thank you Lynn.
“Stuck” in your mind… 🙂
I find spending some time focusing on and listing all the things that we can do, helps change the mindset from can’t to can.
Thank you Laurie.
Lets make a list of things we can’t do…the last item on the list is:
** We can’t stop on a list of things we can’t do lets create a list of things we can do.
One of my managers (a favorite actually) always asked for a “Plan B” and “Plan C” on a project of consequence… over the course of working together I realized the value of these B&C were to bring my mind to alternate paths right from the start (rather than as a backup) The problem in my head is that we choose an execution path and it becomes THE plan, we are wiser to understand anything beyond a few days/weeks is an undocumented trail [saddled you with another horse metaphor – sorry 🙂 ]
Soooo, as the team savors the pity party or being on their collective high horse, perhaps consider observing the obvious via the Lakota wisdom…”the best strategy, when riding a dead horse…dismount.”
While visioning and goal planning often feel esoterically and ephemerally productive without application, they are still a dead horse.
Being saddled with the application piece means feeding, watering, grooming, training, cleaning up, in manageable steps, all the while doing spot scans to see if you are on a good path or track for the goal and vision.
It is very important to pause along the way and appreciate how far you have come and briefly enjoy the scenery…even if there are mountains up ahead. (By the way, there’s always mountains.) And do you come across felled trees, dead ends, box canyons, you bet…so it might behoove you (as Ken noted) to have those back up plans and back up plans to the back up plans…all of that occurs before you start your journey if you are really planful.
Okay, I’ve beaten the dead horse metaphor enough…. 😉
Over, under, around or through. Those are the only ways to get past obstacles.
Gather your posse or just jump on your horse alone. Do something. Notice the results. Adjust. What part worked? What part didn’t.
Do something else. Adjust. Trot until you can gallop.
That is why a horse has reins…to change the path.
But if you don’t giddy-up, you’ll never get anywhere.
Forgive all the manure.
I love having a Devil’s Advocate (or being one) on the team to ask “What can go wrong?” because this gets people looking for alternatives.
I also am a huge fan of having a Plan B and/or C in my back pocket. I had to use a Plan B on a major project when a curve ball came out of no where at us in the 11th hour. Having a back-up plan meant we went live on schedule and without hiccups visible to the upstream and downstream customers.
The biggest key for me is to instill a mindset that failure is not an option. This means the team will be looking out for ways to succeed even when it gets ugly or when the horse dies.
Great thought provoking post. Thanks.
Great post Dan, I too believe in focusing on what we can do when my team gets stuck.
Great post. So true. Once you are getting some things done, then the things that seemed undoable become more doable. It’s all about inertia vs momentum.
I love this. “It’s all about inertia vs. momentum.” I’m gonna put that sentence on a sticky note where I can see it today. It will be my theme for the day.
Another great post I found here !
I have similar problem in many areas of my activities.
Lately I started to make lists of little things I want to do in the upcoming week. Seems to work pretty good and makes you see that you are progressing in the correct direction.
Nice metaphor, Dan! These “things we can’t control” are inevitable, but it boils down to how we react and respond to such situations that either keeps us moving forward or ends up getting us stuck.
the title of this article is misleading, I was hoping to see some actual legless horses