This morning turned into a bit of a crazy whirlwind. I had the schedule all planned out: Leave at 7:20am with my two sons, Makar and Lucas, and my wife, Pilar. Drop Makar at his bus stop, followed by Lucas at his, then drive Pilar to the train station, which is adjacent to my office building. Finally, I would step into my office and boot up my computer to set up my studio for the recording of an upcoming event.
But even the perfect plan eventually runs into reality. And the two don’t always agree.
My wife was running late, so we shifted to Plan B. I would take my youngest to his bus stop first, then return to pick up my wife and eldest son.
On my way out, I realized I couldn’t find my office keys. So we adjusted to Plan C. I dropped off my sons first and returned home to pick up my wife. As I drove her to the train station, I kept my eyes keenly on the road, hoping that I would spot the keys, which I thought may have fallen out of my pocket as I drove home the night before on my Vespa.
Having dropped off my wife without finding my keys on the road, I arrived at my office, hoping to discover I’d dropped them there. I retraced my steps carefully, following the path from my usual parking spot to my office door. The keys were nowhere in sight.
I had Plan E already in mind. I rushed back to my house to set up my home studio. I plugged in my podcast mic, set up the lights, and turned on the camera. Now I sit here, seven minutes before we record, collecting myself. I calm my heart and enter a stage of being present. I manage to convince myself that Plan E was the first plan all along.
This is but a micro-example of what it takes to be an entrepreneur or intrapreneur. Whenever you are creating something new, your plans rest on assumptions that are likely to prove false. The customer you thought would be your primary user turns out to be someone different. You thought they’d love your primary product attribute, but actually they care about something else instead. The promotion tactic you thought would reach your audience turns out to be different.
They say the difference between a manager and an intrapreneur/entrepreneur is akin to preparing a meal. The manager plans the menu, buys the right kitchen equipment, buys the supplies, and cooks the meal. The intrapreneur jumps into the kitchen and figures out what to cook. Another helpful metaphor is the entrepreneur is the marine who goes to battle and takes the beach, while the manager is the police officer who keeps thing in order after the country is taken.
The truth is, we all need to be able to do both: to plan and change the plan, to build a kitchen and raid the pantry, to take the beach and then police the peace. The key is to recognize when the moment presents itself to shift from manager to intrapreneur. When those unexpected moments happen, consider three steps to move you quickly into an agile mode:
- Let go of your plans. They were laid for a situation that no longer applies.
- Stop looking to place blame. Asking, “Why did I lose my keys?!” is to waste valuable time on unproductive analysis. When the whirlwind dissipates, you can do your analysis and put in new protective strategies. I’ll be sure to keep extra sets of keys at home from now on.
- Get moving to the next plan. In the movie Chariots of Fire, there’s a pivotal scene in which one of the main characters, 100 yards into a critical race, is pushed to the ground. He pauses for but two seconds, jumps back in and … I won’t spoil the ending for you. You can see it here.
Whether you are trying to get to an important meeting, grow your company, or cook a meal, these three practices will keep you moving to your goal.