I was fortunate to meet Sir Bradley Wiggins last week, Britain’s most decorated Olympian and Tour de France winner. I think there is so much the world of business can learn from others and it was great to listen to his thoughts on a variety of topics. Coincidentally, I also had interesting conversations with two different businesses last week too. At the start of the week I didn’t think there would be a connection between these separate events and meetings and yet there is one striking thing that connects all three.
Business 1 is undertaking a project to develop some incredible materials technology for use across multiple sectors and with the aid of some government funding. The MD had a feeling that delivery wasn’t going to plan and had asked for my company’s help to help analyse the project status and then help deliver it. After looking into the programme of work, budgets and resources, one thing struck me: it wasn’t clear why the company was undertaking the project in the first place! Further analysis indicated that although the market demand had been analysed, the technology’s commercialisation strategy was missing and this meant the role of the project and its deliverables were not clear either.
“What’s the use of running if you are not on the right road.” ― German proverb
Business 2 is very different, part of a large multinational organisation in the oil industry and responsible for operational management across the globe, it doesn’t make anything but is effectively the steward for a multi-million dollar operation. The business leader asked for some thoughts and a proposal from my company for how to improve the effectiveness of the team which, by his own admission, is struggling to cope with the demands placed upon it, needs some creative solutions to business challenges and has personalities pulling in different directions. When I asked “what is the purpose of the team and what is it aiming to achieve this year” the leader simply replied “we haven’t managed to agree it”.
Which brings us back to Bradley Wiggins who was asked, “when you were a child did you think you’d become an Olympic medal winner?” His reply was “when I was a kid my teacher at school asked me what I wanted to do when I was older, I told her I wanted to win an Olympic medal and wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. She listened and asked me for what else I really wanted to do(!), but the point is you can have dreams and if you are dedicated and committed you can achieve them. The only thing I might have done differently looking back is to have paid more attention and passed my exams!”
So, Bradley Wiggins had goals and pursued them with a single mindedness that brought dramatic results. The two businesses I spoke to last week need to have goals to help them make an impact and achieve their potential. If in our business activities we can have clear goals, commit to them and develop strategies designed to get us there then surely the results will be dramatic, perhaps even life changing.