Thursday, 30 May 2013

Business learning from walking: 2. Knowing where you are is more important than knowing where you are going

Picture from
It's a truth that you have to start where you are. Whether it's starting a walk along a trail or a new change initiative to streamline the repeat prescribing process, you begin where you are - not where you think you are.  Anyone who has run a process mapping event will know that participants love to create maps and plans about what they want to happen, where they want to be. Focusing on the reality of what actually happens seems far more difficult. It's fairly boring too. To start your walk you need to be able to place your finger on the map and say "We are here". To start a change program you need to be able to use all the data you have to state your current position.

Would you start walking a linear trail, like the Thames Path or Hadrian's Wall, without knowing where you are starting from and whether you are at the place you expected to be?  I may decide to start walking the Thames path but if my actual start point is 8 miles from the predicted start point, then it's goign to be a very long day and probably one with many disappointments.

After you've started moving, you need to keep track of where you are. In business we do this by measuring our progress. These measurements need to be close in time to the actions and decisions. If I walked a route saying I would check the map at every hour on the hour (monthly reporting?) then I could quite easily waste time and energy by going in the wrong direction.  Every decision point needs a check between plan and actual progress.

I can talk a lot about where I want to end up with my walks, as Many talk a lot about what the results fo their change program will be. But in the end, those results and goals are dependent on a system and practice of knowing where you are, at any point along the way.

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