Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg
I have a confession to make.
I play softball…slo-pitch softball. I have for a long time.
There. That's out now and I can get on with my post.
As I was playing softball the other night, I remembered a tip that I learned a long time ago about playing infield. Sometimes, as a 2nd baseman, I have to chase a ball down to my left or right and while I'm in motion, grab the ball, transfer it to my throwing hand and then throw it to the appropriate bag (base). That set of actions is complicated because I'm moving and if the guy I'm throwing to is still moving to the base as well, it's even tougher. In that instance, I need to lead the throw to the base trusting that my teammate will be there when the ball gets there.
But when you're running and you have to quickly look up and find a white (dirty) base on a light grey ball field, it's not always easy to see it quickly and every moment matters when you're trying to beat the runner.
So to help with that, I've taught myself that each time I go out on the field, before the first pitch of the inning goes out, I will look behind the bases to see if there is a landmark behind it that will help me to quickly look up and throw to the base. That way, when I'm in motion and the bag is difficult to see in a split second, I can just aim for the tree, building, or corner of a dugout that I know is behind the bag.
As I was thinking about that more today, I realized how important that strategy is to decision-making in business as well.
Often, we only have eyes for the short-goal - the problem or opportunity right in front of you. But if that doesn't line up with the bigger picture behind, then the question you need to ask is, "am I throwing to the base?"
This is why strategy matters so much. Often, people think that the process of planning, outlining, documenting and creating buy-in on an overarching strategy is too much time to waste in our fast-paced world, but really, if you don't have those things in place, the risk is extremely high that you are making bad decision after bad decision - constantly throwing away from the base.
So in other words, strategy and planning actually translate to speed, accuracy, and effectiveness.
Seems to me, the question "what's behind the bag?" is very worth asking and answering. If the answer is nothing, then you've got some work to do.