3 “First Things” Before the “Big Thing”

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“You can’t swallow an elephant, but you can chop him up.”

–     Alfred E. Perlman (1902 – 1983), President of the New York / Penn Central Railroads, in a 1957 interview on how best to run a railroad…

Mixed Metaphor Alert!  Painting, eating and elephant, running a railroad….all woven in to this DD post…

I’ve always wondered the origin of the “one bite at a time” analogy, so I looked it up.  At the same time, I was reminded of Dad and Grandpa Stark frequently saying, “That’s no way to run a railroad…”  So, Heston, you might be thinking, what’s the danged point, already?!

OK, OK…  I randomly looked up 50 articles for CEO’s from last week, and 46 of them were “New Year’s Resolution” themed.  It makes sense, because the beginning of a new year is a logical time to think big, grandiose dreams and focus on big-picture outcomes.

And, we ought to remember that the big picture is the product of thousands of little brush strokes.  Which means we ought to decide where we’re going to put our first brush strokes as we begin the new year.

  1. Does your team know what you want them working on today?  Right now?  They probably know that you’d like ___% growth this year, or _____ new deals this quarter, but do they know what should be at the top of their priority list today?
  2. Does your team know how you’ll measure the progress along the way to the bigger goals you’ve set for the year?  Do they know how to connect the things they’re doing today to assess whether they’re getting closer to or further from the outcomes they’re pursuing?
  3. Does your team know where they fit in with the other teams?  Does logistics have clear insight to sales’ pipeline?  Does conversions know the timing of potential deals coming down the chute?  Does finance know the pricing dynamic in the market and are they frequently in conversation with the people closest to the market to get a head start on addressing market changes?  Does procurement know….

You get the point.

The best way to get to December 31 in a happy manner, is to get to January 8th with some means of measuring progress.

This time of year, it’s easy to get all wrapped up in the big, hairy and audacious.  That’s a very good place to have part of or focus.  Here, now, is an even better place to have a lot of our focus, and as long as we connect the two — the big picture and the brush strokes — our paintings get prettier, faster, and turn out to be masterpieces.


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