Last week I participated in a fun and informative yoga workshop called The Art of Sequencing. In yoga, sequencing refers to the order in which you do yoga poses, going from simple stretches to more complicated poses. When one has a yoga session properly sequenced, the physical effort builds up slowly toward the final, most challenging pose.
Good sequencing starts by identifying the key final pose, then looking at which muscles or muscle groups will need to be engaged to successfully hold the pose. Once you know the pose “building blocks” you can then back up to the initial poses and stretches to limber up those areas. Building toward a difficult pose makes your practices safer and more successful than randomly stringing together unrelated poses.
Years ago, Covey famously told us to “start with the end in mind” as a successful habit for effective people. Yoga takes this thought one step further. When working toward a complex goal or business objective, a leader needs to identify those issues (muscles) that need to be engaged for success. Put another way, what are the key dependencies that you know will be problematic? For one goal, it may be that you lack the right talent or that the team is missing key abilities. For another business objective, the issue may be a difficult and demanding client. A third may be plagued by shifting priorities. Or, heaven forbid, your plan may have all three of these challenging issues.
Once you’ve identified the areas that could be or are potential roadblocks, you can proactively plan to work around or remove them. Thoughtfully and critically analyze both the resource and human aspects of the goal and its subsequent projects, tasks and activities. Using the yoga metaphor, what needs to be warmed up and stretched? Maybe it is recruiting strong internal allies or sponsors for your goal. Or perhaps delaying or deferring other work to corral resources where they can have the most impact. In many organizations that I work with, leaders are so focused on getting things done, checking things off lists, and wrapping up projects, that they fail to build in contingency plans. They jump into the exercise without stretching or building up to the increased need for effort.
Sequencing, or looking at the final execution as the result of building up small incremental steps, is a healthy approach leaders can adopt from our yogi friends and use to increase the success of their business plans and efforts.