Most people have a hard-wired bias for action — they may place more or less value on collaboration, or risk-taking, but they want to get things done. Others of us are more concerned with taking our time to understand what were doing, to get the Right things done.*
This does not have to be an either-or choice. There is no on-off switch to creating winning companies or winning communities. We don’t create corporate or civic enterprises for the exercise of keeping people busy, yet we can’t spend all our time philosophizing either.
The idea of implementation goes beyond simply getting things done, to getting things done with a purpose, that put a plan into action to achieve a mission. I’m reminded of Jim Collins’ book Good to Great (and it’s companion Good to Great in the Social Sectors). Each of us is engaged in a mission, from the monumental to the mundane. We are successful when we achieve our mission. Much conflict in organization is simply a lack of agreement on a true mission, but that’s a morass for another day. When we agree on our mission—our Hedgehog as Collins puts it—we still have to agree on how we get that done.
That’s our Flywheel. Collins admonishes us to go beyond the bias for action, beyond the search for the magic silver bullet. There is no one sweet spot on the slider bar between Action and Planning. Rather, we’re turning a giant heavy flywheel. We do things, we talk to people, we build on our strengths, we demonstrate results, we return to go and start around the flywheel again. Its a cumulative, and iterative process, not a linear allocation of choices.
The idea isn’t new, but the norm doesn’t seem to have caught up. It does seem to be getting a new look from different angles. There are elements in the ideas of “Failing Faster” and Tactical Urbanism, making it easier to try many small ideas and then quickly incorporating those back into even more experiments. There are elements in the ideas of taking a long term view of where we want to go with short term practical changes in how we get there. There are elements in the Strong Towns idea that cities are complex systems subject to trial and error experimentation over a long period of time.
Think globally, act locally; rinse, wash, repeat.
*I want to acknowledge Nancy L. Sisson, Center for Workforce Training, at San Juan College for some great discussion on the DiSC Workplace profile during our session on Effective Frontline Leadership. I’ve spent a good bit of time with my Myers-Briggs Profile, and Nancy’s seminar helped explore how all sorts of personality types can do better together.