Make Mountains into Milestones

I recently returned from four refreshingly long days in Lutsen along the beaches of Lake Superior’s north shore. The weather was warm and calm enough to spend one of the mornings in a kayak. After scooting along the shoreline, our tour guide led us out in to the lake, far enough out that the shore was a distant sliver. We stayed out there a bit, appreciating the clear, fresh, water. We had gone far enough out that we could no longer see any man-made structures. No cabins. No lighthouses. Just trees, mountains, and the lake water.

Our tour guide, knowing he couldn’t point us in the direction of our resort (for we couldn’t see it) pointed out two peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains and directed us to point our kayaks between them. Ten minutes later, we were close enough to shore to see human scale again. Our guide then pointed out a distinctly colored cabin along the shore and had us turn slightly and paddle toward it. Then, ten minutes later, he pointed out a series of townhouses peaking out from the evergreens and we turned ever more parallel with the shore heading toward them. Five minutes later, our resort was within sight and he directed us in for a landing.

Big transformative projects are like this journey back to shore. None of the landmarks the guide used were our final destination, they were the landmarks we could see from where we were. We all knew that our destination was out there, was real, and was our final destination. These intermediate, temporary landmarks made the journey more comfortable and far less overwhelming than if we made a beeline for a pinpoint beyond our field of vision.

It’s June 2016. Week 23. The mid-point of the year is three short weeks away.

The milestone projects my clients and I initiated in December and January are now going live (you may see a few of these coming to your favorite websites). These foundational efforts, are all incremental steps toward a larger effort that will take us through the end of the calendar year. Like the guided kayak journey to shore, our final destination is still hidden behind the horizon. We’ll still need to adjust our heading against a couple more milestones. Against a couple more iterations.

These iterations allow us to capture greater fractions of larger project’s business value sooner than the projected 18-month timeframe. It also builds resiliency into the project and the teams. As we’re able to set the heading to the landmarks we can see more details reveal themselves with each adjustment.

There are two take-aways:

  1. If you haven’t yet scheduled a long weekend enveloped in nature, out of range of your mobile phone service, do so this week.
  2. If you’ve lost sight of your destination on a big project, identify intermediate destination you can see that’s in the same general direction, one that will help you make substantial progress – both directly & indirectly. Adjust and repeat. If you’d benefit from a guide to supporting you along the way, give me a call.

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