Don't Know Where You're Going? So What?

Get Going Anyway! Now!

When you decide to move, no matter where, no matter how wise, you more or less (mostly “more”) force “the other guy” (army, opposing team, business competitor) to react. And those who watch or participate in, say, football know—running backwards and reacting is as tough an act as there is.

General U.S. Grant was the master of this. “Keep moving, somewhere, anywhere, but keep moving” was his de facto-de jure “strategy.” As long as he was on the move the other general was in a constant reactionary mode of operations. (“What the hell is Grant up to now?”) This strategy applied with legendary relentlessness led Grant to victory after victory—and won the Civil War for the Yankees. (Since there’s no such thing as a free lunch, it’s worth noting that one of Grant’s few weaknesses was building defensive fortifications.)

I thought about all this while examining the results of this year’s Gator Bowl. Texas Tech’s Red Raiders are in the second tier when it comes to the likes of recruiting might, yet once again they had a great season, ending with a Gator Bowl win against the favored and nationally ranked Virginia Cavaliers.

Texas Tech is football’s #1 proponent of “just keep moving”—and let the other guy react. Their basic offensive “strategy” is “everybody who legally can run like hell down the field and we’ll throw the ball toward one of you.” Against UVA the result was an unexpected 31-28 victory.

Virginia’s quarterback, Jameel Sewell, passed 28 times, and garnered 17 completions—an average set of numbers per normal offensive practice. (For the year, Mr Sewell completed 162 of 270 passes—again, about normal.) On the other side of the line at the Gator Bowl, Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell threw the ball an astounding 69 times—and picked up 44 completions; for the year, which included one 75-7 victory, Mr Harrell had 512 completions from 713 attempts. (Those who are not fans of American football will have to take my word for it that statistics like this, to the normal follower of the sport, are truly “dumbfounding”—at the least.)

Air Force Colonel John Boyd re-wrote the modern military strategy book with an idea called “O.O.D.A. Loops.” O.O.D.A. stands for: Observe. Orient. Decide. Act. Whoever has the shortest OODA cycle tends to win—mostly by confusing the enemy, who is forced into a permanently reactionary mode of action. In aerial warfare, the opponents of those with the quickest OODA loop-cycle tend to die not shot down, but by crashing courtesy disorientation caused by overreacting to the lightening fast twists and turns of the “keep on moving” pilot.

We have, I am aware, but a small number of fighter pilots in our Blogging community at—and a large # of you who couldn’t care less about this year’s Gator Bowl, hard as that is for me to fathom. For you, as well as those of us blessed with a love of the smell of pigskin, my bottom line is quite simple: Instead of spending the first weeks of the New Year reviewing plans for the days ahead, hustle the hell out onto the field and visit a passel of customers, give the green light to a slew of half-baked prototype tests, say “yes” to damn near any proposal that crosses your desk. (Why not, in fact, a green light, permanently lit, on your office door or desk?) Message: Just start chuggin’! We want the “other guys” to be immediately forced to run backwards—and as the title of the Post says, don’t worry much about what you’re doing, just get doing. (E.g., Have you made those 50 calls I ordered on New Year’s Eve? I’ll generously give you a week of grace—but I will not tolerate your attendance at a bunch of planning meetings. Period.)

Tom Peters posted this on January 4, 2008, in Strategies.
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