Clear Away Those Vines
I must admit I LOVE games. I mean I REALLY love to play games. Through years of various tests and strategic coaching, it is clear my unique ability is seeing patterns that clarify the big picture. I then gather and arrange information in a way to solve problems and spur action. Thus, my addiction to Candy Crush and now, Cascade – games all about patterning – should come as no surprise.

As with most games, Cascade gets more complex the further you advance and there are numerous obstacles to achieving your end goal. One of those obstacles are vines that slow down your ability to see or clear a path so you can advance to the next level. During a recent game, my patterning habit collided against my focus on upcoming business goals for the company. Just like playing the game, our business strategies need to follow a plan:

  1. Break it Down
    If I look only at the end goal of the game, I won’t be successful. While I know the outcome I want to achieve, I haven’t thought through the smaller steps that are required to reach it. With a business, we set strategic goals and then move towards achieving those in smaller blocks. Like many companies, we have long-term strategic goals that guide short-term actions. For several years, we have followed practices outlined in “Traction” by Gino Wickman. We take our three-year goals down to a one year goal and then break those into objectives and tactics for the next 90 days. This keeps you from being overwhelmed, has improved our focus as a team and helped keep our path clear towards the goals of success.

  2. Prioritize
    With Cascade, you only have so many spins to achieve your goal so you must plan ahead to use turns wisely. In the real world, we only have so much time and resources to achieve our goals. There are 24 hours in each day and learning how to use those wisely takes thought and effort. Our company has included elements and tools from “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, which builds the practice of focusing on the most critical items and declining those not key to helping us achieve our goals. This sounds simple, but we all know there are issues that arise each day that can eat up small to big chunks of our time. Just like the game, we keep practicing to use spins (time) and boosts (resources) wisely so we reach our goals in a timely, healthy manner.

  3. Timing Matters
    Most games incorporate timing as part of the challenge and Cascade is no exception. If you want to win, you must complete tasks and make progress in a certain amount of time. I’ve been reading “The 12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran that shows the value of an even shorter timeline for businesses to see success. While our three year and 90 day goals mentioned above are quite useful, implementing Moran’s recommendations can provide more immediate feedback and clarity for long range goals. Everyone on the team is driven to execute now as there is no “later in the year” to catch up.

Clearing Away the Vines
In a recent game of Cascade, I had played poorly. My execution wasn’t on target so my squares had grown excessive vines and I had to use more resources to clear them away. Think about this like project scope where you have said yes to non-essential work so you are now forced to spend more time to find success and focus on what really is the highest best use of your time.

I took a few moments to stop, slow down, think about my strategy and reset my mind and timing. With the essential placement of just one square, all the vines were blown away and I had a clear path to my goal and success. If only all projects saw such perfect results!

We are all guilty of straying from our goals and strategies at times. It is easy to get distracted and slowed down by the “vines” - the non-essential day-to-day items that don’t help you move the needle toward your goals. Vines are dangerous, they cling to us, get us distracted and they use valuable resources better spent elsewhere.

Lessons from the Game
While Cascade may not be your favorite game (but it should be!) it can still provide great lessons for all of us:
  • Stay focused.
  • Stay essential.
  • Break it down.
  • Say No.
  • Work your plan.

Kill off the vines as soon as they start to creep in and 2017 is sure to be a winning year!