Jet Ski and Ocean Liner Leadership
January 21st, 2022
Vision without action is just fantasy, but action without vision is chaos. What is needed is a systematic way of articulating the vision, and then a systematic way of backing that big picture vision into a plan, goals, and accountability system that will make sure that the work that is being done on a monthly and quarterly basis is feeding into a three-year vision for the company.
In our company, we call this process VGPA™️ (Vision, Goals, Plan, and Accountability.) The VGPA™️, which is an acronym for Vision, Goals, Plan and Accountability, is a tool that we use to be sure that there is an alignment of the top management on what the top priorities are for the year, the quarter, and the month and that each member of the management team knows how their actions contribute to the overall vision of the organization. As Patrick Lencioni highlights in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”
We believe in the power of alignment. Specifically, the power of a group of high talent individuals collectively focusing on a common vision. The vision must first be defined by the leader, then it must be broken down into three to five goals that will result in the fulfillment of the vision. For each of the goals, a strategic plan is created by the entrepreneur and managers who play a role in completing the plan. The plan for each goal has a quarterly outcome and monthly mile markers, and all of the managers who are participating in the plan put their actual signatures on it. Then, we create an accountability system for managers to be sure that each of the managers is focused on meeting their monthly mile markers. This system ensures that there is an alignment of the effort that is being expended and that it is focused on specific tasks for a set period of time.
While the VGPA™️ delves more into strategic and tactical consulting than the human capital work that we unusually do at LEAD, we have noticed that the process of having entrepreneurs articulate a clear, concise vision for the organization is an essential part of building a strong management team and improving the health of the human capital side of the business. Why? The short answer is trust.
Visionary leaders are idea generators. They value a high degree of freedom and flexibility, and they are comfortable with uncertainty. It’s part of the reason why they became an entrepreneur. However, we have also noticed that the personalities of excellent managers value structure, systems, and certainty.
I call this the challenge of the ocean liner following the jet ski. While this is not true for all entrepreneurs, many of our visionary entrepreneur clients are “jet skis.” They like to flit around at high speed, nimbly changing course multiple times in a short distance. The challenge is that as the organization has grown, it requires more structure and systems, making it less nimble. When the leader is constantly changing directions, it creates tension between the entrepreneur and the managers, who are steering the ocean liner. They can’t change the direction of the ship as fast as the entrepreneur would like, and it results in the managers rolling their eyes when their jet ski leader comes in with another crazy change in course.
Because the VGPA™️ process forces the entrepreneur to identify at least a general heading for the organization and lets the managers get on board with where they are going over the next year, it not only creates a sense of strategic alignment for how everyone should be allocating their energy, it also eliminates a great degree of uncertainty from the managers’ lives. So, while VGPA™️ does have many strategic and tactical benefits, when done correctly, it serves the higher purpose of acting as a real-world trust-building exercise for the leadership of the organization. And trust among leaders is not only invaluable, it is the essential foundation for any team.