Photo by Amy Ballentine
Recently, I was at a dinner party, and the talk turned to business models and what helps make a successful organization. Among other things, my right-hand dinner partner and I talked about a book that he was particularly fond of, and which we discussed at length. Imagine my surprise when it showed up on my doorstep the very next day!
The book, by author and businessman David Sokol, is titled Pleased But Not Satisfied. What a great title for a book, right? In the forward of the book, Warren Buffet quoted Sokol’s mentor, Peter Kiewit: “After each success, be pleased but not satisfied.” And in the introduction, we are warned “not to rest on our laurels, but instead seek the incremental improvement that is possible even in the best managed operations.” It resonated with me, being the person who always thinks I can do better at whatever thing I’m doing at the moment.
As you might imagine, this made me think about sailing. As in: are you pleased with your improving racing results, but not satisfied with your standings? Scott’s call to action reminds me yet again that a lot of little things really can add up to make a big difference, and that we should never stop looking for ways to improve. Several weeks ago, I wrote about this very thing, in a post entitled: “Lots of Little Things Can Add Up to Big Gains!!”
After having read the entire book, I went back to re-read chapter 4 of Sokol’s book: Plan, Execute, Measure and Correct: The Four Steps to Achievement. This is the very model for a musician’s practice, and for a sailor’s self-coaching, both of which I’ve written about — it seems that this qualifies as one of those business concepts that can apply to just about anything. And so, here are Sokol’s four steps, which I’ve taken the liberty of modifying, so that they can help you think about ways you might begin the planning to achieve your sailing goals for this season:
Sokol advises that we not overlook “the importance of fully describing the details and actions required to achieve the plan’s goals.” In planning for your sailing goals, this means not only committing to an ultimate goal, but breaking that longer-term goal down into the much more detailed “little steps” that will get you there. For example, if your overall goal is to win a Series trophy, you’ll need to break that larger goal down into its component parts, outlining the details of each part along the way. In my experience, this creates a series of shorter-term “sub goals,” along the path to your longer-term end goal.
Sokol writes: “Great execution requires a culture that values identifying problems early and verifying progress thoroughly. The key to overcoming challenges is the opportunity to attack the problem, at the earliest possible time.” So when you’re following through on your specific plans, keep track of what works and what doesn’t, and hone in on where the problems lie. I suggest you keep a notebook for this, and review your notes from time to time so you can see where you might need to adjust your plan of attack, based on what the challenges are at any given time.
This is self-evident: measurements can provide valuable information as to whether a plan is progressing. If it isn’t, you really need to figure out why. You’ll need to refer to your journal as you go along, measuring yourself week to week or race to race. For example, you might record how you’re doing relative to other competitors, or whether your race scores are improving, or whether you get a good place at the start consistently. It’s up to you to figure out a way to measure yourself, based on what your individual goals might be.
I think of this more as a constant reevaluation of where you are and where you want to be, and whether your plan is working or if it needs to be modified. In my experience, there have been times when the plan, which had been constructed to help me reach a certain goal, was either flawed in some way, or there were other, more pressing areas of focus that needed to become the new game plan. The plan’s not a static thing. It changes as you change, and you need to be able to make corrections if necessary.
I think this four-step plan of Sokol’s is a really valuable one, as each step distills your focus and energy into a manageable course of action. It keeps you accountable, and on the path of constant improvement, as you measure what is working and what needs to be reevaluated. Your identification of the detailed steps needed to plan your goals forces you to analyze every area of potential improvement in your sailing — because remember — chipping away, little by little, will always yield huge aggregate results in the end. Be ever on the lookout for ways you can do things just a little bit better, and you will be astonished at the difference they can make.
Do you have your notebook yet, and your list? I certainly do!