In John C. Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (2007), John shares the importance of navigation to the leadership arsenal. Leaders plan the route to the desired destination, which is much more that simply controlling the direction of travel. Navigation incorporates vision, strategy, planning, and execution. The vision represents the mental model or picture of the desired end-state. The strategy provides the approach and the plan captures the considerations of all aspects potentially affecting the attainment of the goal. Those leaders that follow the law of navigation, see more than, see farther than, and see before others do (Eims, as cited in Maxwell).
Leaders that navigate draw on information from a variety of sources as shown in the graphic below. Leaders consider past success that build confidence for tackling a new venture. Leaders consider their own past failures and the failures of others. Leaders tend to look forward, forgetting the past. Great leaders learn from the past and the lessons that those experiences provide and apply them to future endeavors.
Leaders that navigate consider the current conditions before embarking on the path. What is the cost in terms of finances, time, and resources? What is the level of commitment to this action? Does the culture support this endeavor? Does the action carry any momentum? Is this the right time for this action?
Leaders that navigate solicit and consider the input and counsel of other people. One person rarely has all the answers to every question or issue that arises when tackling a major initiative.
Leaders that navigate balance their optimism, intuition, and faith with the realism, planning, and fact surrounding any major initiative.
Books abound that contain detailed approaches information related to visioning, strategic planning, and project planning and execution, but Maxwell (2007) shares a simple acrostic – PLAN AHEAD – that provides a reminder of the major steps involved in navigational leadership.
- Predetermine a course of action
- Lay out your goals
- Adjust your priorities
- Notify key people
- Allow time for acceptance
- Head into action
- Expect problems
- Always point to the successes
- Daily review the plan
Over the years, I committed many hours to learning various processes and planning techniques. My personal library (physical and virtual) contain many books on those topics. I recognize the important contribution that process definition and planning provides to reaching goals successfully. Some try to convince me that the current environment does not lend itself to thorough planning but I am not convinced. I firmly believe that going slow to move fast comes into play for any project of consequence. I recognize the need to balance the plan’s level of detail with the level of project complexity. I also witness the tendency of many to rush into implementation with an appropriate level of planning.
I regularly create project workbooks that contain the project’s charter, plans, decisions, and results. The workbook includes the plans for risk management, resources, development approach, artifact library, testing, deployment, and others. Those workbooks capture many of the concepts highlighted in this post and in Maxwell’s book. I use the workbooks at work and in my volunteer activities. My experience supports the approach that planning contributes to the successful execution of the project. My observations also support the fact that ineffective planning nearly always results in projects that take longer and cost more than expected or results in project cancellation or project deliveries that fail to meet stakeholder needs.
In 2007, the leaders of the church where I attend requested that I lead an effort to organize the ministry leaders with organizational planning to improve the efficacy of the various church programs. This group and I spend many Saturdays over five months, which culminated in documented plans for each ministry. I began with a strategic planning session to assist these leaders with solidifying the organization’s vision and mission, understanding their strengths and weaknesses (SWOT Analysis), and aligning the various programs with overall organizational objectives. I presented a planning template for each ministry leader to develop that identified the ministry goals and the plans to achieve those goals. Each leader presented their respective planning to the other leaders and collectively refined the plans to ensure alignment and support. At the beginning of the new year, each leader presented their plan to the entire membership and sought volunteers to assist with the execution. The entire process garnered positive feedback from the leaders and church members. The benefits and results of the effort also caught the attention of other people and groups seeking to leverage the approach. With navigation applied, the group benefited by gaining a thorough understanding of each program’s contribution to the overall success of the organization.
Links to other posts in this discussion on the laws of leadership.
Mind map of the 21 laws of leadership.
Introduction to the leadership laws
1 – The Law of the Lid
2 – The Law of Influence
3 – The Law of Process
Six Hats – a tools for group or individual thinking that assists with evaluation from a variety of perspectives.
SWOT Analysis – an approach for evaluating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to gain greater perspective for evaluation of a venture.
Maxwell, John. (2007). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.