Running, Learning and Kipling

Since my last blog a few weeks ago, the miles and my training programme have certainly been cranking up. One more big run at 22 miles and then I can enjoy the taper (alternatively known as legitimately doing little exercise!).

Since my football rant the big news is that Newcastle FC have belatedly employed a new manager who has a track record for knowing what he’s doing. He has a purpose and vision for how the team should play and that’s a big relief. I’m not sure how the board finally got there (as usual they made a complete horlicks of getting to the point), but I hope that ripping up the old blueprint lasts. It’s taken just eight years to get a strategy – isn’t it amazing what happens when there’s £100 million at stake?

And that’s my last mention of football. I promise. Really.

What was occupying my mind on my last long run was the question of ‘core habits’. I’ve been reading running blogs and taking friends’ advice and there are a number of habits you can develop that give you a chance of being successful (rather than just getting around).

I’ve been focusing on dynamic stretching before starting, having the right breakfast, keeping properly hydrated, giving each run a purpose, then stretching to warm down and using a roller. Wow. Does it really make a difference when you do all of these things? Well, it certainly takes longer to hit the frightening “wall” and I’m not aching so much the next day, so the training plan is definitely getting easier.

It’s the same in enterprise – you can develop a great strategy on paper but the organisation needs to have a number of core habits embedded to make it effective and also to develop an enterprising culture. As well as using Strategy on a Page, here at Bubble Chamber we work with our customers on building these core habits – Plan/Do/Review, time management, coaching, effective meetings, leadership development, feedback, flowcharting and developing confidence in using numbers.

All of these habits are important for embedding strategy into an organisation’s culture but one of the key ones that stands out for me is the Plan/Do/Review (PDR) cycle, which comes from David Kolb’s experiential learning cycle. A number of different variations – Plan/Do/Study/Act (or you can swap Study for Check) – are credited to Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who is considered by many to be the father of modern quality control.

For me, PDR is the key for learning within an organisation as it ensures a consistent approach to all projects (however big or small), ensuring a clear focus and a reduction in wasted effort. It maximises enthusiasm and effectiveness.

PDR is simply a description of the key steps that have to happen in the correct order within a learning process. It starts with a Plan, setting out what you want to do. Then the Doing of that plan takes place, followed by the Review of the results. Then, based on the review, you update the plan to start the cycle again.

This is a universal tool that is always of use, from the smallest plan to the biggest. The steps are always the same; it is simply their scale and complexity that changes with the size of the project. I never thought I would refer to Kipling in a business blog BUT any plan can be created by answering the following key questions, often referred to as Kipling’s six honest men.

“I keep six honest serving men
 (They taught me all I knew); their names are What and Why and When
 and How and Where and Who”.

In most cases, the answers can be written on one page. On the occasions when that isn’t possible the questions stay the same but the answers simply require more detail. Always start with the Why, then the What, Who, When and Where in that order before diving into the detailed How.

But also ask “why?” at the end of each question as a double check to ensure everything references the original purpose. It is always possible that details will be added to these questions once the How is fleshed out but doing it in this order gives the How maximum focus and lessens the chances that key elements will be missed.

In my last last blog, I highlighted the why/purpose as being at the heart of any strategy (defined as a plan for a major result). Personally, I like the one page approach for any strategy or project, as it really gets you to clarify your answers and be clear on your direction of travel.

I’ve been around the learning cycle for my running training a number of times now and, although you can know the theory and have a good plan, I’ve found there is the issue of having the ‘talent’ to deliver it!

And there’s suffering a little of Albert Einstein’s famous saying to consider as well:

“Insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So, back to the training plan and the accumulation of those hard miles….

My next blog will be on Talent Dynamics.

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