Get Your Head out of the Boat

Hampton Roads Chapter

Mike is a Continuous Improvement Engineer in Suffolk, Virginia.

I enjoy sailing, and have been a sailor since I was 12 years old. I especially enjoy the competitiveness of sailboat racing. From the shore, it looks slow and boring; in the boat, it requires high levels of concentration and the ability to see the big picture (the race course) and the details (the myriad of continual sail adjustments).

In my youth, I and most other racers put an extraordinary amount of effort into boat preparation and continuous improvement to make the boat go faster. As my boat speed came on par with the people I was racing against, the game changed and became a lot more interesting. To be successful, you had to “get your head out of the boat”—meaning stop concentrating exclusively on the factors that make the boat go faster, and start playing the chess game of positioning the boat relative to competitors, the race course and the changing wind conditions.

These lessons have the same relevance in the business world. In business, you must be able to produce products and services efficiently in order to survive in the competitive environment. But periodically, you need to “get your head out of the boat” and evaluate your competitors, environmental factors and your own strengths and weaknesses to define the correct direction for the company. Efficiently producing the wrong product or positioning it incorrectly relative to the …


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