Friday, February 21, 2014

Baking Bread, Business and the 100 Meter Dash For People With No Sense of Direction

You don't run 26 miles at five minutes a mile on good looks and a secret recipe. - Frank Shorter

I once asked my mother for her bread recipe and she replied “I don’t really have a recipe.”  When I asked her to recall how she consistently baked the same great bread time after time, she had to give it some thought, replaying the process in her mind in order to recall the ingredients and the steps necessary.  Even when I knew her secret to success, the complexity of the skills necessary to bring it all together clearly manifested once I attempted to recreate the bread that I loved as a child.  “Punching”, “kneading” and “rising” are obviously more complex concepts than this strategy guy thought they would be. :-)

A talented baker can make many minor alterations to the process of bread making, perhaps using different flour, different yeast, different oven temperatures and the like, but there are some basic unalterable tenets when it comes to baking bread.  For example, one does not throw flour in an oven, bake it at 350 degrees for an hour and then add the yeast later.

When it comes to baking great bread, variations of technique and ingredients exist but there are some elements to the science of baking great bread that are immutable.

Business is the same

There are many ways to create a successful business and when one listens to successful businessmen, whether it be Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Elon Musk or others, they all illustrate different methods and styles of creating success.

But within the variants of their individual success models, there are a few basic principles that they all embrace:

  1. They know what their end goals look like in concrete, measurable terms.
  2. They know the correct order of the steps necessary to get there.
  3. They know what resources (financial, human, knowledge) that will bring them closer to or further away from their goals and they know at what point they need to have the appropriate resources in place.
  4. They know how to answer the questions “why” and “how do you know” when questioned about their end goals, their milestones, their resource needs and how they set about to find success.
  5. Within the context of their execution and intention, they adopt the principles of flexibility and adaptability while keeping their end goals in mind.
  6. They have a passion for creating the best result possible and will do whatever it takes to accomplish it.
  7. They embrace their passion but reinforce it with facts and not fantasy.

And yet for all the models of success that exist, too many small and medium sized businesses still look like Monty Python’s “100 Meter Dash for People With No Sense of Direction”.

Monty Python

To follow the road to success in business is much the same as following a GPS.  When one asks for a destination, it is highly unproductive (and sometimes physically impossible or even dangerous) to follow the directions in the order one’s ego insists instead of the steps being offered by the GPS.  Making one’s way efficiently to the desired destination requires an intelligent, methodical process, taking each step in the right order, with variants allowed for “meals, fuel, bathroom breaks and photo ops”.

With all the success models available in the world, why is success so elusive for so many?

I believe it is because the need to listen to or satisfy one’s ego is much stronger than one’s desire for success.  When people get angry or affronted with such a suggestion, that is in fact their ego confirming that such an assertion is true.

Fortunately for drivers, when we choose to ignore our GPS, few notice the mistakes our ego created (with the exception of screaming kids and spouses who are hungry or tired).  And while it is true that ignoring the GPS may occasionally produce an unforeseen side trip that turns out to be delightful, that is a rarity that occurs by luck and not by design.

The business world is, unfortunately, not as private or as forgiving.  As this photo shows, sometimes you are the bear and sometimes ……


The Bottom Line

Gerald Weinberg explains in his Bread Recipe Rule that the same ingredients, the same recipe and the same baker will always produce the same bread.  A recipe for success must include the essential ingredient of intelligent, replayable, consistent, predictable, measurable strategy.

When one sets out on the road to personal or professional success, it is essential to find a “baker” who successfully bakes success consistently and then model their behavior.  Many successful “bakers” exist as long as your ego doesn’t prevent you from finding them and learning from them.

If you don’t find a successful baker to learn from or if you find one but choose not to learn from their victories and defeats, there is a strong likelihood that you will still bake something.

But for some reason, it may not smell like success.

What do you think it will smell like?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


No comments:

Post a Comment