Leaders: Don’t Touch That Dial…Yet!

Whether it’s creating a new solution from the ground up, enhancing an existing one or fixing a proverbial train wreck, it is imperative that a leader is very intentional on where s/he invests his/her time.

Think of any effort that a leader engages in as a series of interconnected gears in a concentric construct:

  • Center Gear or conceptual center “The Why”– This is the key gear that will ultimately define the pace and path for every other interconnected gear.  In a business context, think of this as representing the leader(s) whom articulate(s) the conceptualvision which articulates why we are doing this and what success looks like for the entire solution.
  • Inner Circle or planning layer “The What”– Concentrically outward from the center gear, these gears get conceptual direction from the center gear and, in turn, engage with the outer circle gears to execute accordingly.  In a business context, think of these gears as representing the planners or solution architects working with subject matter experts to plan the solution.
  • Outer Circle or execution layer “The How”– These are the numerous gears that manifest the solution. In a business context, think of these gears as representing the executioners or project managers, operational contributors and contractors that work with end users to realize the concept.

At the conceptual center, before you add the planning and execution, you are working with concepts only and perhaps a few key leaders.  Although paramount to the success of the operation, a change at this time will only impact ideas and few individuals.  However, once you start adding the planning and execution layers, a change at the conceptual center will impact exponentially more individuals as well as end users.  You can see from this construct, once all layers are in play, any change to what success looks like for the solution are overwhelmingly frustrating, confusing and expensive.   This is too often how deliverables are unsuccessful, timelines are missed and budgets are blown.

Not only do some leaders not spend sufficient time at the conceptual layer, they actually miss it altogether and go directly to planning or, worse yet, execution.  How will we know if a solution is successful if it’s not articulated through a vision at the conceptual center?


As leaders, take the time to focus your efforts at the conceptual center.  Make sure that the ideas are sound and key leaders are completely aligned on the “why”, articulating what success looks like before you add the planning or execution layer.  If you can articulate and align the inner circle to a conceptual vision, the planning and execution layer are enabled with a conceptual target and therefore set up for success.  Yes, it does take time to go through this process but, as this framework demonstrates, it is much more efficient, effective, fun, motivational and less expensive than making a conceptual change after the fact.

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