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“There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them… A man must constantly exceed his level.”
Bruce Lee

You could do worse than having Bruce Lee as a teacher! In business, as in martial arts, leaders have to continually strive to move forward, to discover ways to climb higher. And in business, as in martial arts, if you hope to survive, you need to determine your direction, focus your mind and body on that objective, and then execute with the full force of your ability, experience, and expertise. Clarity, focus, execution. Without it, you’ll remain stranded on those plateaus.

The 3 Pillars of Successful Planning and Implementation


Clarity

“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.”
Steve Maraboli, behavioral scientist, author, speaker

Clarity is the foundation of any plan. It starts with the question, “What do we want to accomplish?” Then, how does that goal/objective align with:

  • The values of your organization (how you behave).
  • Your vision (where you want to go).
  • Your purpose (why you exist).
  • Your mission (what you do).

Unless you’re clear about this, your plans float along like a rudderless ship: subject to running around – or arriving at its destination only accidentally. Justin Rosenstein, founder of Asana, writes in Fast Company:

In Silicon Valley, where I work, teams are obsessed with crossing the divide between having great dreams and actually achieving them. It’s the difference between world-shaking impact and dreaded obscurity… [T]eams that achieve great things share one key habit – they are committed to clarity. Clarity is their hidden, often unspoken advantage.

As a leader, it’s your job to provide this clarity. And, as the “Father of Life Coaching,” Thomas Leonard reminds us, “Clarity affords focus.”

Focus

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”
Bruce Lee

Focus brings the broad question, “What do we want to accomplish?” into frame. Imagine you’re taking a picture of an interesting panoramic scene. You know what you want to capture (clarity); now it’s time to zoom in (focus).

So, you’ll ask yourself, “What are we going to do in the next five years? Three years? This year? This quarter?” Maintaining “laser-like” focus allows you to drill down into clear long-term and short-term objectives. It will also enable you to allocate appropriate financial and human capital to the project or plan.

Another aspect of focus, of course, is the minimization or elimination of distractions. In a Forbes piece entitled, “The Big League Secret to Business: Focus, Focus, Focus,” Alan Hill uses the analogy of a baseball player at bat. It takes 0.4 seconds for the fastest pitch to reach the batter’s box. It’ll take him 0.20 seconds to swing. Between seeing, determining speed, rotation, and angle, and deciding to hold or swing, the batter has about 0.17 seconds to act.

“Baseball players who have achieved greatness at the plate,” he writes, “have done so by persistently keeping their eyes on the goal at hand: connecting with the ball.” Whatever your goal, the key is keeping your eyes on the goal at hand. This is the way you connect with success.

Execution

“Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.”
Vaclav Havel, Czech philosopher, dramatist, and statesman

Execution comes down to this question: who is going to do what by when? It’s that simple. What action steps are necessary to accomplish this goal? Who is responsible for which steps – and to whom are they accountable? By when do you need deliverables?

This is, essentially, where the rubber meets the road. It is the “doing.” In keeping with our martial arts theme, Bruce Lee said, “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” With clarity comes focus – then it’s time to act.

Business is like a martial arts match: it requires clarity, focus, the ability to execute skillfully – and it can be brutal! By practicing these steps like a kata, you can create and implement projects and plans that can help you bust through plateaus and exceed your level.