Sometimes Leadership Means Executing the Plan

Scott Francis
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There are times when we must ditch the plan and we often talk about these moments when a good leader has changed course to effect a better outcome.  These tend to be fascinating decisions to study because we wonder, how did this person know that now was the time to change course, and not earlier, or later?  What was the information that led them to this decision? But there’s another situation to look at: when the plan (or process!) is clearly defined, but we fail to follow it.  In reading Coffee with Startups (by Steve Blank) I couldn’t help but think about the fact that Steve has outlined a clear process (Customer Development), some clear differentiators to apply to that process (what type of market – an “Existing Market” in this case), and published myriad articles about the subject.   He describes coffee with four startups that claim to follow the Customer Development process but communicate clearly in the first few minutes that they have not followed it or completely missed the point. This can happen with processes within your own organization – no doubt you’ve observed cases of this yourself.  But you can’t afford to have the captain of the ship ignoring the process that is understood to be the right one to follow.  If they pick a plan or a process, they need to be able to implement the plan – both in order to make it work, but also to be sure that if you decide it doesn’t work, you’ve actually given it a chance by trying it in the first place. The entrepreneur may decide that Customer Development isn’t the right process for their company to follow… But if it isn’t, then the entrepreneur should follow the one they believe in, and not play lip service to one that they don’t. The same advice follows for process – if you define the right process – follow through on it.  Implement it, get your organization to execute it well.  Only then can you change it from an informed baseline opinion.

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