With a map and a compass

As a former elite orienteer runner I’m used to handling a map and a compass. It is a great school on how to run a business, I did not realize it then, but now I see it clearly.

Running a business is all about planning and re-planning, as simple as that. It’s just like when you would take the next control point in the orienteering, check the map, draw up a plan for how to quickly take me there and then adjust my path along the way to avoid running into trees or off a cliff.

Sometimes, the plan was the straight path; sometimes it looked easier to run a detour since the conditions looked better to do so. Strong deviations from the plan would usually lead to loosing track of the direction, the sooner I realized it, the less time I lost getting back on track.

I had a technique where I chose a boarder that could catch me (for example if there was a field or river out of my path on the left side, I would in doubt choose to turn the left if I had to change direction) and on the selected route I would select milestones to pass, a big rock,   over the stream, pass a bog, and so on. If I at any time did not reach my mid-targets and I began to glimpse my boarder, I slowed down to orientate myself. Once I knew where I was, I could see if I had any new milestones or if I could use the old ones.

If we are to compare running a business to run an orienteering event, it’s like this. The length of the event represents a fiscal year, you compete against your competitors and the control points represent your range goals and the combination of taking all the controls in the event is your calculated total profit.

I have seen too many examples of companies that aim at targets and at the first hurdle make too large deviations from the plan, after a few quick turns they are lost in the woods. Sometimes they even throw away the map and start running around at random in the hope that they will find some control points.

Those of you who have been running orienteering know it’s not just a matter of finding the control points; it’s about finding the right control points. In the business world, this means that you end up last in the competition and you’ve wasted time on products/services that did not bring any profit; they may even be pure losses. Then management blame it on that organization is too slow or unfocused and that the system environment did not work (Map and Compass) …

Take charge of planning, use SMARTER * goals and objectives set on shorter horizons, keep a lookout for the correct warning signals, do a scenario planning and do not run faster than you know where you are. Then you will succeed!

Let us coach management to become elite orienteering runners!

* / Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic, Time-based, Energizing, rewarding

/ Håkan