Porter’s Preface: Motion or Momentum?

June 23rd, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we begin Chapter 10: Motion or Momentum of Bootstrap Business: A Step-by-Step Business Survival Guide.  Ron opens the chapter with a discussion on the difference between motion and momentum.

 

 

Entrepreneurs must address some very vital issues in order to keep their psyche afloat. How do you avoid burning out? What steps do you take to make time for life and work? How do you stay motivated after a long string of 18-hour days? After all, there is only a fixed amount of time in which to accomplish everything you need to do in order to succeed.

 

In this chapter Rich articulates several essential strategies that will help you achieve laser focus and effective effort. Too much of our time is spent doing things that don’t matter, that don’t have positive impact on the desired end result. It all boils down to this simple but seemingly difficult-to-employ principle:

 

Motion is not momentum.

 

Do you remember the last time you walked into someone’s workplace (or your own) and witnessed activity like a beehive? Was it motion or was it momentum? Rich and I have both seen more than a few businesses exuding this type of motion. Everyone is rushing around with frantic looks on their faces, hauling files hither and yon, shuffling paper and guzzling coffee and colas as if their very existence depended on them. They look exhausted but quick-step between cubicles and offices performing tasks that appear to be incredibly demanding and important. At first glance, this is an impressive sight—busy people mean a successful company, right?

 

Peeling away the layers causes one to wonder: How many of these folks are just rushing around doing meaningless work? Rich and I have a friend, Brent Peterson, who calls this “fake work”. In fact, his book Fake Work will be released in early 2009. Fake work is pervasive in business. Will it be in yours? It will unless you learn to identify the critical tasks (those tasks that really support your strategic objectives), examine the timing required to complete them, prioritize them, and then execute on them. You need both to answer these questions for yourself and to coach your team to understand and act with this mindset.

 

Particularly in the early stages of a business, owners waste a bank-load of energy on countless unimportant tasks. It’s easy to get bogged down in emails, phone calls, lunch dates, and hollow meetings. Sometimes, owners attempt to “will their success” by forging ahead and throwing themselves in front of the bus. When we hear someone say, “I’m working so hard, I have to succeed!” we get a little nervous. They have confused motion with momentum and could very well work themselves into an unfruitful, frenzied failure.

 

Rich saw this firsthand while working in Japan. “I love Japan,” he told me. “I feel a deep connection to so many aspects of the culture. But one aspect that drives me crazy with many of the Japanese businesses is the wasted motion, physically and emotionally. Everyone shuffles around the office moving papers back and forth, acting busy. No one goes home until the boss goes home. Politics prevail, and no one speaks their mind or asserts a thought or opinion on the best way to get things done.

 

“After hours, though, that’s when the real work begins! They go to the karaoke and sake bars, get a bit tipsy, and all of a sudden have no problem saying what’s on their mind! Motion, not momentum.”

 

Starting and maintaining your own business requires hard work. Waves of pressure come and go, encouraging you to move faster and move forward. As they come, are you focused on the right actions, the key movements that will actually get you somewhere? Are you exerting focused energy? People thrive on habits. If you are used to a two-hour meeting on Tuesday mornings, it’s hard to let it go. But what if you don’t need it this week? Skip it!

 

The following sections will help you effectively move forward through the mire of motion and allow you to benefit from the miracle of momentum.

 

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