Deal with Constraints and Walk to your Horizons

by Guy Ralfe on November 12, 2009

horizonI am a member of the Maconomy US management team and this year we have had a very adventurous year growing our organization in this often described tumultuous period. This achievement against the grain has not gone unnoticed  and I was fortunate to participate in a presentation for our chairman of the board of directors, Thomas Hartwig, of our  achievements and our future visions.

Thomas who sits on the board of many companies, was not what I expected in a chairman. I think my expectations have been badly misshapen by TV series like The Apprentice! He was very humble, polite and attentive to what we presented. He often gave reflection, sought clarification and when contributing back to us he spoke from his experiences but always presented his advice in a open crucible type of way, so as to produce more comment, discussion and thought around the topic by the team. I felt very privileged to receive his leadership.

So during the presentation we spent some time discussing our future goals and all the challenges we were facing in our efforts to continue growing the operation to meet these goals. The perception was, that while we were still making progress, it seemed to be taking more effort and there appeared to be more challenges to our growth desires. However tough it has been the mood remains optimistic and determined, whereas when things were contracting at the end of 2008 even the mood felt like it was a challenge – to quote  “when things start contracting – suddenly even the office coffee starts to taste bad!”.

For me this was where the enlightenment came and Thomas’s experience and leadership shone through. While we were achieving good growth in the US office we were becoming focused on the issues right here around us and he pointed this out to us. He offered for us, to stop looking for solutions to our constraints. Just like the sun rises every day, when you clear one constraint another will replace it in endless supply. Rather, he offered, as a management team focus on defining the future situation we envision about 5 years out and build up a strategy to achieve that. By doing this we then focus on delivering the strategy, which ultimately will produce the results we want, and the noise (constraints) remains operational noise.

Looking back, ActiveGarage had a similar situation at its pre-inception stage. A larger group met and when presented with the offer the group focused in on all the constraints to the offer. By the time we realized what we were doing the offer had moved on. Only when the current group of founders got their heads together and envisioned the future were we able to think and act for the future to  produce, what at initial inception, was considered an impossible task.

In order to sustain continued results we must mark out our future point on the horizon and work towards it by walking down a path in its direction.

Just as debris lies on the path to the destination, focus on walking the path and not the debris that we must tread over to get there.

Be sure to keep resetting the point on the horizon recurrently as the horizon moves as you approach it.

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