Executing Strategy – Knowing When To Punt

In strategy lingo it’s common to hear about pivoting, but you don’t often hear about punting. In American football a punt is typically performed to gain field position, or in order to avoid giving the opposing team a dangerous offensive position close to your goal line.

Basically, it’s a regrouping strategy getting your offense off the field so that you can better decide your next strategic & tactical moves.

The other day I was faced with a c-suite executive who was having challenges making significant progress over the recent few weeks on tasks critical to his business. We identified that a certain number of issues were stuck, some no longer even immediate critical issues. On the other hand, having had his attention preoccupied with “lingering tasks” was taking his eye off-the-ball on issues that had now become critical paths for success. Through added questioning we even came to the conclusion that this was now even disturbing his sleep, making him more irritable toward family & friends. The professional “stuck” was now impacting him on a personal level as well. Not a pretty picture!

It quickly became clear that we needed to remove some “blockage”, but certain things were out of his control. He was dependent on answers & time from 3rd parties. Things out of his direct control were now occupying too much of his mind-share and we needed to do something quickly!

Here’s where the whiteboard comes in handy..

  • We listed all of his pending issues & relevant concerns
  • We looked for threads of commonality in order to group tasks & reduce “the overwhelming” issue
  • We identified those items that were most critical & had to be progressed within the next week
  • We “punted” the rest to future dates for follow-up, delegation or until they became more relevant
  • We then agreed on a final follow-up on the top 5 items remaining
  • We established quantifiable desired outcomes instead of “to-do’s”
  • We identified who were “true owners” & engaged their support
  • We agreed that if no immediate solutions were available he would escalate or punt them forward
  • We set immediate (desired) follow-up & more intermediate progress milestones

After a 1 hour session this senior executive was a different man. With a huge burden taken off his shoulders he now knew where, what, when, how & who he needed to action. He walked away a “happy camper”.

A few days later I checked up on him & 70% of his most critical paths had either been resolved or made significant progress. Things were back on track! As synchronicity would have it, without the “blockage” new opportunities started to arise. Even his long term desire for a strategic partner magically appeared when he least expected it. With life / work balance also restored, it was “happy days” ahead for him now.

What tasks are currently sitting on your plate that you should punt immediately? What’s blocking you from focusing on what’s really important in your life or business? What’s stopping you from punting and regrouping in order to take significant strides forward?

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1 Response to "Executing Strategy – Knowing When To Punt"

  • Karen Bridgwater says:
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