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HCA works in industries that demand repeatable and highly reliable business processes. We work with clients to align workforce development, technology, and business processes with competitive strategies. All engagements target practical and implemented solutions that can be measured and monetized. Our work commonly targets 3 outcomes: the Employee Experience, Business Results, and the Customer Experience.

Will it make the Boat go Faster?

Getting your organization and its employees motivated for a bigger and better 2019

A wonderful article in the recent Guardian entitled “Why exercise alone won’t save us”  chronicles the annual flurry of physical activity that we see all around us as New Year’s Eve melts away and New Year’s resolutions set in. It is right and affirming that all of us should find some renewed vigor and physical activity as we can since in our modern American world it is estimated that 85% of the workforce is engaged in sedentary employment and there is a medically proven corollary between physical activity and a reduction in life shortening disease. The article provides an exciting and important reminder from the Roman Orator Cicero who in 50 BC is quoted to have said,

“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits and keeps the mind in vigor.”

Hence, for many, we are once again reminded how physical movement alone has salutary benefits…that is until our resolutions are broken.

A bi-product of this annual phenomenon in the town where I live is the emergence of tribes of residents involved in socially committed month long activities intended to get the year off in the right direction. Just at the time when the bears are hibernating, these teams of Bikers, Hikers, Yoginis, Joggers, Runners, and Gym goers of all stripes are reemerging to prove to themselves that ‘This will be the year’.

There is great merit in just getting after it, but as experience would dictate, although beneficial it might not be enough. Resolutions un-resolve and then dissolve and for most, despite the intuitive and scientific proof of personal benefit, the big bang at the New Year’s starting line fizzles in the face of the daily grind. This is a singular problem in business as well.

In his book, “Will it make the boat go faster?” British Gold Medalist Ben Hunt-Davis chronicles the resurgence of the British Olympic Rowing Team and its successful quest to win at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. There are some important lessons in the documentary that can help you and your organization achieve higher levels of performance and to stay motivated while on the journey. Principal among them is the idea that all of your actions should be gauged by a simple litmus test,

“Will it get me to my goal? Will it make the boat go faster?”

There is a great anecdote about Joe Gibbs Racing, the perennial NASCAR powerhouse and that for years they never put a sign outside their Huntersville North Carolina Headquarters. It wasn’t a priority. The sign wasn’t going to help them win races.

Many businesses that have committed to a brighter future in 2019 are in the process of executing upon plans they have created. Others who are gasping to catch up from the finish of 2018 are struggling to focus on the actions that will be required to create and execute on forward plans. Likewise for individuals, improving personal behaviors, removing stress at work, developing deeper and more meaningful relations at work, doing more purposeful work are fleeting ideas that waft away with the aroma of their morning coffee.

As you move forward, and that’s a good start because with time there is no going back, it makes sense to consider the objective, the motivation, and the outcomes in the process of making a better future. 5 connected ideas will allow you a better chance of realizing your objectives:

1. Create aspirational goals. That is the strategic responsibility of the leaders in your organizations. Once done these goals need to be distilled into easy to understand messages that can be communicated. Perhaps the most common reality we see is well intended goals, projects, and ideas that are left in the top desk drawer.

2. Take the time to create appropriate micro-goals. What are the activities that will be necessary for each department and stakeholder to contribute to the goal? How will those activities change the way these people currently work? 

3. Socialize these goals and explain the ‘What’s in it for me’ to all the stakeholders. Have the courage to write them and commit to them. There is a much higher chance that affirmative action will be taken toward organizational goals if they are written and published than not. Get common terms and common communication around the goals and how you will achieve them. Successful Olympic Team, Professional Sports Teams, and Businesses are very good at getting that part of the process right.

4. Focus on the immediately controllable aspects of the goal and not ‘as soon as we get the new software installed’ or ‘as soon as we get the new piece of equipment’ or ‘as soon as I get the new department staff member’. As you look at what is controllable, consider most importantly what that means for daily objectives. Hunt-Davis offers up the notion of the 10 minute rule which suggests that if you do 10 minutes of a planned task you are most likely to complete it. This helps you prioritize what is important in respect to your goal.

5. Once you have secured the foundational elements of your goal planning, look at it in terms of the process and not the results. If your goals are in order, committed to, and well communicated then the focus on the process will help drive the success in things you do. Keep it simple. Will what you are doing make your customers happier, employees more engaged, improve quality, reduce defects, increase sales, make the boat go faster?

I tend to think that it is good to run every day or as frequently as you so desire but to run faster every day is how we are wired. Accepting the challenge becomes life affirming and is likely to provide a higher level of motivation for you and those around you. Good luck.


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