Lessons From Children Bowling

Think about bowling. The American kind. Where we, hopefully, roll the ball down the lane to knock over a set of 10 pins.

As children, the bowling alley manager would kindly place bumpers in the alleys on each side of the lane to keep our balls from all falling in there and never hitting a pin. As we get better, the bumpers could be removed. We still put the ball in the alley every now and then, but at least most of our balls hit a pin — or several!

The lessons from children’s bowling are rich.

We want them to try without massive frustration. As they get better and better, we remove the bumpers. If they backslide, we can again use the bumpers.

You’ve given your team mission, vision, and core values. You’ve defined the strategy. And now it’s time for them to execute that strategy. But how do you ensure they can be successful as they learn? Of course, by using bumpers.

Bumpers for your strategy define what is in, and what is out, and provide a viable logic test for every attempt to execute the strategy. Is what we’re doing within the bumpers? Are we forgetting about the guidelines and using company resources to pursue every great idea we have — even those well outside the bumpers?

Even the highest performing organizations need bumpers. They define the outside limits of alignment. We do not need to march single file to the goal, but we also can’t wonder aimlessly that general direction and expect success.

This podcast suggests how you can capture those “in the alley” ideas for later consideration, if you choose to, but focuses on how and why the bumpers are important.

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