Opinion Column

Camino and the three “where” questions

By Larry Schruder, The Delfi Group

Solitude and personal reflection time are two very rare commodities in our busy worlds.

In a world of worry about seemingly endless chaos, it is remarkable that may of us tolerate very high levels of chaos in our own personal lives. We will never change the world if we cannot change ourselves.

 

Solitude and personal reflection time are key ingredients to enabling the inner workings of spirit and self-awareness to help us re-structure our lives, to re-order how we see and interact with the world. Solitude and personal reflection allow the thee “where” questions to surface – “Where am I now?”; “Where did I come from?” and “Where am I going?” Key questions in life – but also key questions in business.

In recent years, I have been fortunate enough to have had two relatively long stretches of time to put one foot in front of the other on the Pilgrimage Walk known as the Camino do Santiago in Northern Spain. A pilgrimage is not just a hike or a long walk – it is an seldom-experienced time of extended removal from the normal hectic pace of life for some serious self-reflection on life’s purpose, journey to date, current location, desired destination – and required compass adjustments.

It is a journey towards answers to the three questions – an opportunity to examine and shed old belief systems and outworn “truths”. It provides time for some internal spiritual “housecleaning” so that newer, higher and more appropriate perspectives can arise. “Camino” is the Spanish word for “The Way, The Path, The Journey” – one route through solitude and personal reflection to arrive at a less chaotic place or state of mind.

So what are all theses inner spiritual and reflective thoughts doing in a business column? Simple – we often have chaos in our businesses because we do not take the time to reflect on these same three “where” questions as they relate to our business. The everyday bus-i-ness of running an organization often means that we too occupied with striving to reduce change and turmoil – and the more we try, the harder it gets.

The equivalent of a Camino pilgrimage for an organization is a strategic planning process – a structured time of reflection and solitude from the every-day business demands to focus on the three questions. It is best led by a skilled facilitator – but not always necessary if you are able to stand back and take a somewhat detached look at your own business. Let’s give it a try.

“Where am I now?” What are you pleased with and proud of in your business – your successes, your challenges that you have overcome, your returns? Where are you in relation to your goals, to where you want to be? Is this a good place to be for the next few years – or are there areas that you want to move ahead on or change? What are your areas of challenge – areas that you are struggling with, areas that you want to be better in? Who are your customers and what are they saying about you? How has your product offering changed in recent years, and is this for the better?

These are the start to a series of questions to help you be honest with yourself about where things are at – what needs to change and what needs to stay the same. There is a powerful saying in strategic planning – “If you are uncomfortable with Change, then you will enjoy Irrelevance and Obsolescence even less.”

“Where did I come from?” Knowing and accepting your past, your ancestry, your DNA as a business is an important part of setting strategy. There are parts of how you do business that you may never want to change – almost “givens” in who you are as a business person. These are often expressed as values or

guiding lights that steer you, sometimes unconsciously, to your destination. Just as you cannot change your personal biological lineage or DNA, so too must you be aware and respectful of the core values that have propelled you to where you are today. Some lines should not be crossed, or the essence of your business will be violated. Know and understand your history and make note of those things that must never change.

“Where am I going?” Strategic Planning is future-focused so the bulk of your reflection time and questions need to focus on the world of tomorrow, not the world yesterday and today. Just as you cannot safely drive a bicycle by staring at the intersection of your front wheel with the ground, so too are you unable to safely and successfully steer your business unless you are looking ahead to the future.

Question after question must be answered about trends and patterns that you see looking ahead – especially in areas of technology, customers, economics, product offerings, politics, demographics, human resources. These answers will lead to areas of focus that you must pay attention to in order to be safe and successful going forward – areas that are called strategic imperatives – areas that must not be ignored. These are the factors that need to steer your business direction – the areas that will drive your operational goals moving forward.

Three “Where” questions that are critical to your business – but also critical to your life. Without some time for solitude and serious reflection, your answers may not be good enough to ensure safety and success moving forward. Find the time and the discipline to walk your way through these questions. A quote that was particularly meaningful for me on my walk – "Before a new chapter is begun, the old one has to be finished. Stop being who you were, and start becoming who you are now and who you want to be in the future". Bon Camino

Larry Schruder is President and co-owner of The Delfi Group, an Ontario-approved Vendor of Record. He can be reached at Larry.Schruder@thedelfigroup.com