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Friday, March 14, 2008

Missing the Cone?

The bike racing season has begun! I have spent all winter training for the race season which just started, which leads me to "missing the cone."  One of the great and grueling races is something called a time trial (TT) which many deem "the race of truth" because it is just you on this 12km to 40km route trying to beat the time clock by pedaling your little heart out.  I enjoy the TT's because I don't have to worry about crashing into anyone else; there is no one on the road but you and the people who have started the TT either 30 seconds in front or 30 seconds behind you. BUT there are a few things that are critical in this race - one being the turnaround point or, "the cone in the road" that indicates you need to turn around and go back the other direction where a person stands with a stopwatch and marks your time as you whiz (hopefully) past the finish line.
 
So the first TT was exciting!  I had signed up so early that I was actually going to start this race 2nd.  Uh oh, not a great place, because that means you only have one person in front of you that you could potentially pass on the road - which is one indicator that you are riding really well. In my case, I passed that person who started 1st after about 100 yards, he was so dang slow.  Then before long, the other, faster riders began to pass me, which I knew in advance would happen, because hey, they are CAT 1 riders and I am CAT 4, so I just pretended they were little bunnies and I was a greyhound.  WHAT I DIDN'T EXPECT was to not know where the cone was in the road.  I saw this little cone off to the right but USUALLY the cone is in the middle of the road and someone is standing there with a sign yelling at you "This is the turnaround point!"  But remember, I started 2nd, so they are kind of just getting set up.  Bummer, clearly I MISSED the cone.  I check my odometer to see I have ridden almost 1 km too far.  I quickly turn around and haul ass back to that finish line knowing my time won't be accurate now, and there is no chance to place in the top 10 because I missed the cone.  : - (

Wow.  Once I have caught my breath, I immediately ride to the starting line and let the officiators know about the problem at the turnaround and to GET ON IT so other riders don't make my same mistake.  Then, I ride back to the warm up area to warn my team.  After I have cooled down, I ride back to that same starting point to see if any changes have been made and then give a status update to my teammates who have not started yet.  

"Missing the cone" - what a great metaphor for what we do in business when we aren't totally sure where we are going with our teams, with our plans, etc.  In the facilitation and planning work Alchemy does with teams everyday, we believe preparation is critical to everyone's success.  We work side by side with clients to imagine, rehearse, envision where we are going and then run scenarios to ensure we know exactly what might happen.  Once we run a session, we circle back to ensure necessary course corrections are made and keep our client teams updated with any changes to the plan.  All of these things add up to ensuring great success.

Here are a few questions to consider with your planning team so you don't "miss the cone":

Do we know where this session, plan, process is going?
Have we done the kind of preparation necessary to feel confident about how it will go?
Are the right people involved in the planning and follow-up process?  
Have the outcomes been clarified and is the road for our work clearly marked?
How will we know we have been successful?

It was just one TT in a long season of opportunites, so I know I have plenty of other races to test my fitness and improve my time.   And you can bet I will take to heart the great lessons I got from missing that dang cone.

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