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  • Writer's pictureTom Kothman

Start with the Vision by Steven R. Shallenberger and Robert R. Shallenberger. A True North Recipient

Spend time around Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and you’ll begin to see the world through his lens. Start with the Vision: Six Steps to Effectively Plan, Create Solutions and Take Action, copyright 2019 by Steven R. Shallenberger and Robert R. Shallenberger, is clearly influenced by the authors’ time with Covey and, I think, enhances their problem-solving process. Start with the Vision is either a Monarch notes of Seven Habits absent Covey’s holistic Seventh, “Sharpen the Saw” or a booster shot for devotees of the Covey’s 30-year-old classic. Either way, the book is well worth the modest cover price and the Kindle version is an even better deal.

“When you use the Six-Step Process, you always start with the vision. In other words, you identify your desired outcome first. It seems counterintuitive because the problem is the thing you want to resolve.” [Pg10] Based on years of consulting, the Shallenbergers conclude that the typical approach to problem solving is exactly backwards. “Great leaders first focus on what they want to create (the vision) and then figure out the real issue standing between their current reality and vision.” [Pg2] Here is the paradigm shift echoing Covey’s 2nd habit, Begin with the End in Mind.

“It is an angle of entry that gives you the confidence, peace, and calm to achieve results that previously may have seemed difficult or even impossible.” [pg4] The Shallenbergers point out, with substantial evidence, that focusing on the vision first is emotionally positive and versus the emotionally negative approach of starting with the problem. I concur. It is a simple but highly effective paradigm shift. “Successful leaders shift the playing field from the problem to the vision. The vision changes the entire tone and feeling.” [Pg11]

“The Six-Step Process immediately gives you a positive place to start. What is the vision? The remaining five steps give you a clear and logical path to achieve your vision by finding outstanding solutions, developing a specific plan, and evaluating results along the way.” [Pg12] At this point the authors introduce five case studies, spanning personal to business “problems” and trace the application of the Six Steps process to their respective conclusion.

What I like about Start with the Vision is its efficiently simple approach to day-to-day business situations. Yes, it has impressive possibilities for personal improvement as the case studies illustrate. Weight Loss. Failing Marriage. Long Term Unemployment. Conversely, many waking hours are spent dealing with business problems, big and small. Would a higher ratio of successful outcomes at work positively impact our personal lives? That is worth contemplating.

You do not get off easily if your vision lacks substance; you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and do some work. If your vision is “not very fat, just skin and bone” [Bony Moronie, Larry Williams, 1957], flesh it out using SMART goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Specific).

“According to our research, did you know you are 90 percent more likely to accomplish something when you have a clearly written goal and plan? Yet, on average, only 10 percent of people have clearly written goals. Isn’t that an amazing irony? You are 90 percent more likely to accomplish something when you have a written goal and plan, yet only 1 in 10 people do it.” [Pg30]

In Step Two you become hunter-gatherer. Scout around and collect the relevant facts. “Once you identify the current reality, then you simply determine whether there’s a gap between your vision and the current reality. If so, then you move to Step Three.” [Pg 44]

Step Three is extremely important because you need to determine the root cause of the gap between the current reality and your vision. If you do not, your plan will most likely fail because it never addresses the real issue causing the gap.” [Pg57]. Applying an approach like Malcolm Gladwell’s revisionist history, the authors revisit the 1986 Challenger disaster where blame was put on the O-ring failure. But was that the real cause of the disaster? The O-ring failed because the temperatures were so cold that morning that it caused the O-ring to freeze. Even though engineers on site called for caution, NASA, facing the pressure to launch and with the absence of a Go/No GO process (yes, hard to believe but true), the disaster happened. The absence of a Go/No Go process was the real cause and, of course, now NASA has a tremendous Go/No Go process.

Because of the insights and revelations of the first three steps, Step Four of the Six-Step Process, What Are the Best Options? is perhaps the most exciting. [Pg74] Finding the “best” option requires more than one option and that’s where brainstorming and mind-mapping enter the process. My own experience is that this is the most fun. If you have ever been involved in a true brainstorming session, I think you might feel similarly. The authors list eight rules of effective Brainstorming and four steps in Mind-mapping. Now you are ready for the Go/No Go decision. “It’s like orienting your map with a compass and taking a bearing of the landscape. If the compass points you in the wrong direction, you are a No Go. If you find yourself staring in the face of a No Go, repeat the brainstorming process and continue looking for ideas or solutions.” [Pg 74]

Steps Five and Six complete the process via specific planning with accountability (Five) and evaluation of results (Six). If applied in the prescribed order, Steps One through Three spawn the critical Covey-like mind-paradigm shift and Steps Four through Six bring discipline and order to the associated hard work. “Everything about the Six Steps is to get you to the point where you take the solutions you created in Step Four (ideas that address the root cause of the gap between the current reality and vision) and develop a specific plan of who-what-when.” [Pg 89]

Summing up, the predictable consequence of Steps One through Three is that effectiveness and efficiency of the associated work generated in Steps Four through Six is going to be qualitatively better and voila, the vision realized. Running through Start with theVision: Six Steps to Effectively Plan, Create Solutions and Take Action is the mantra “You will either lead a life by design or you will live a life by default!” [Pg 125] I think you can take that to de bank!

# (Books reviewed are chosen independently. As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.)

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