If you are driving to the grocery store couple of miles away from your home, your planning for the trip will be minimal compared to planning a cross-country road trip. For grocery store, a cursory look at the fuel gauge may suffice. For the road trip, if you have enough resources, you need extensive planning. Money, maintenance, weather and time all become considerations. The very notion of a destination far away forces you to think and plan differently – encouraging and even forcing to be creative.
Our road trip 2003
Think of a startup. It is typically cash-strapped. One way forward is to grow organically. You depend on the revenues you generate. You build slowly while keeping the lights on. All investments are conservative and cautious. As you keep the liabilities to a minimum, you also limit the flexibility and freedom of action. You first ensure cash flow to sustain the monthly expenses before you think of hiring or availing that training opportunity.
The alternate path is to get external financing – say from a venture capitalist. You give up some of your equity in the company and have more stakeholders to answer to. But you also get this doze of welcome cash that lets you not worry about the next payroll or rent payment. Money is not a variable anymore at-least in the short term. You have more space to be creative and think and plan big. With enough resources, you can plan a road trip rather than just be confined to visit to your local grocery store. You are encouraged – even forced – to be creative and think big. You can actually accomplish much bigger things.
This is the same model that should be applied by a manager to coach and grow his people. If he sets small goals – simple incremental improvements from the current state – there is not much room for creativity or big thinking. It will be useful but just about that. However, setting an ambitious and challenging goal will force everyone to look at the process in a totally different way – just like you have to think differently when you are planning a big road trip or devising your startup strategy for next two years with enough cash in pocket. You want your people to think more like what would it take for me to become the best project manager in the organization rather than what would it take for me to write emails more effectively. Defining the end goal far away makes it a completely different problem – and the solutions more creative and rewarding. This is how people and organizations grow to the next level.