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Ready? Go! Tweak! By Ronnie Nijmeh

Let's set the scene. You're in a packed stadium. It's the Olympics and you're watching the 100-metre sprint. You're up in the nosebleed section and you see what resembles little "ants" stretching on the field as they prepare for their 10-second mad dash to the finish line. As the race is about to begin, the official hollers: "Ready? Set. Go!" And off they go, as fast as the wind, with the hopes of finishing first among a handful of equally talented competitors.

But wait, "Ready? Set. Go!"? Is this phrase always correct? Should you always be "set" before you "go?"

The answer is: not always. Let's take a step back to understand this using an example.

Running a Business vs. Running a Race

Running a business (or running your life) is not entirely like running a race. In a business, you don't usually have to practice for months for something that lasts a mere 10 seconds. Business plans are more likely to have a longer shelf life (well, at least longer than 10 seconds, I'd hope!). Nor do businesses stand on a racing line with their competitors and wait for formal instructions to begin.

On the other hand, you do have to plan and practice in order to achieve success, whether you're a business builder or a sprinter. How else are these situations similar?

Similarities

Well, for one, competition is fierce. A business has other companies in its market. A person has other people in their expertise vying for the same opportunities and jobs. A runner has other athletes aiming for the gold.

Next, there is a common thread in terms of goals. A business wants to be the market leader and innovator. A person aims for the top in the class, to become the most knowledgeable or have a reputation for excellence. A runner's ultimate goal is the gold. In essence, all three aim for the top spot; to be number one in their field.

Lastly, motivation, inspiration and hard work are all requirements to succeed. I can't imagine a runner winning the race if he's never up early in the morning practicing. Nor will a business become number one in its industry if it doesn't have a clear vision or the necessary people to succeed. And a person will not become successful and well-respected if he only works during a full moon between the hours of 2 and 3 am. Okay, well maybe not that drastic, but you get my drift!

Differences

The most relevant distinction between businesses and athletes is the idea of false starts. Starting before the official whistle isn't allowed during races. In contrast, false starts are a common practice in the business world. No business starts at the same place, at the same time as their competitors. Rather, businesses are often light years ahead in terms of new products, services, or other innovative business practices. Then, of course, the competition will analyze the success and attempt to replicate it!

False Starts

Well, what if false starts were allowed during races? Would it be fair? Instead, what if there was a tradeoff: the runner can start 10 metres ahead of his competition but the catch is that he would only be allowed minimal training and planning beforehand. So, chances are, the sprinter won't be in as great of shape as his opponents. Is it fair now?

While we're not going to get into the ethical or legal issues with false starts, it raises an interesting point. What if, instead of: "Ready? Set. Go!", we had:

Ready? Go! Tweak!

What does this mean? What does it entail? And how will you be directly affected?

Let's understand the "Ready? Go! Tweak." concept a little more.

In almost all cases, it's better to start a race ahead of your opponents. When you're ahead, you have the breathing room to make mistakes and improve, while still remaining in the lead. But how do you actually start ahead of the pack? It's simple:

Go before you're set.

That's the whole concept of "Ready? Go! Tweak." summed up in a few words. It's the idea of going live with the best point-in-time information and also with the understanding of the potential risk of launching with reduced planning. You don't want to hang onto a project for too long since stalling could be far too damaging in the long run.

While we're not debating whether planning is necessary in order to succeed (there's no doubt it is), we need to discuss the extent of the planning required to succeed.

"I don't think about risks much. I just do what I want to do. If you gotta go, you gotta go." --Lillian Carter

Is it necessary to plan out each and every stage of the project in extreme detail in order for you to succeed? If so, than this concept isn't quite what you're looking for. If you're able to adopt the "do it first, tweak it later" philosophy, then "Ready? Go! Tweak." is right for you. And you just might find yourself with a huge advantage later on. You would have planned less during the initial stages of the project, but overall, you were able to get instantaneous feedback and finalize your plans along the way; a process I call: Spot Planning.

Spot Planning Spot Planning is the process of creating plans and making decisions concurrent to launch. It's on-the-spot decision making as opposed to pre-planning. It gives you the flexibility of deciding on-the-go without stalling or disrupting progress. The key to this is the effectiveness of the spot planners.

Spot planners are able to:

* Understand the time implications of a project * Make quick and accurate decisions * Thrive in ambiguous situations * Deal with many stages of a project at once (planning, implementation, tweaking, promotion, etc.)

Do any of those characteristics describe you? I hope so!

Tweaking Performance One Shot at a Time

Let's go through another example to reinforce the idea behind tweaking. Imagine that you're brand new to archery and you're taken out to a controlled shooting environment. The instructor will give you a prize if you can hit the target. Then you're given two options:

Option 1: You have 1 arrow, so you must aim carefully before you shoot. Once you've shot that single arrow, it's gone! Boom! Bye, bye! So in order to succeed, you'll probably want to take as much time as you'd like to make sure the shot goes as planned.

Option 2: You have 100 arrows, but you're not allowed to aim as carefully before you shoot. Instead, you're only allowed to shoot and tweak your performance after every shot. In essence, you'll be continually improving with each arrow fired. By the 100th shot, you'll be more accustomed to the angles, environment, wind and other factors. Odds are better that you'll hit the target with 100 chances than with only one.

"Each trial brings progression, and only through progression will success be born." --Ronnie Nijmeh

In reality, you may not be given 100 chances to succeed, but the key point is that there's an opportunity for trial and error in most business and personal experiences. So use these opportunities wisely!

The importance of tweaking your idea, product, or service each time around can't be stressed enough. Did it work the first time around? If so, you know what may work in the future. If not, find out what needs improving, tweak it, then try again.

Perfectionism

You can't always be perfect. You can't always write the perfect report, have the perfect product, or simply "be" perfect. You're prone to make mistakes and have flaws (whether major or minor). But that shouldn't stop you! Acknowledge that you can't always be perfect and use the effort to learn, grow and adapt.

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." --Thomas A. Edison

If you prolong the planning stage in search of "that perfect ending" or "that perfect feature" you won't be progressing on to new levels of success. And if only you're willing to let go, you may realize just how close you are to success! Parents, doesn't this sound familiar (perhaps when your child moves away for the first time)?

Tough Questions

It should be noted that not all initiatives should utilize the "Ready? Go! Tweak." technique. I wouldn't say that a car company could "tweak" their faulty brakes after it's been released to the public. Nor would you want to experiment in an already established and competitive market.

So ask yourself:

In your business, project or venture, is it possible to begin after the minimum amount of planning? What are the negative effects of doing so? Will you be slingshot into the lead if you use the "Ready? Go! Tweak." and "Spot Planning" techniques? Are you able to afford making mistakes or deferring decisions until after the launch date? Are you working with a smaller, more adaptable team?

If you're in a position to launch with the minimal amount of planning and are willing to tinker along the way, you just might find yourself in first place when all is said and done. Can you do it?

© Copyright 2004

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