Tag Archives: alternate paths

We Improvise

“Not one plan, but four plans?” I wanted confirmation from Roberto.

He nodded. “I was in the Marines. We had a saying, ‘We don’t plan. We improvise.’ But, improvisation only works if you are prepared with a plan. What’s the first part of every plan?”

“Purpose,” I replied. “We all have intentions, mostly unspoken. A plan is created when intentions become a documented purpose.”

“Improvisation only works when there is a commonly agreed-to purpose,” Roberto continued. “Without a purpose, improvisation becomes chaos. The chaos may be interesting, but it accomplishes little. Purpose drives the next step.”

“Visualization,” I replied.

“Everyone on the team must agree to the purpose and hold a similar vision of what that future state looks like,” Roberto explained.

“How do we know the picture each holds is close to the same picture of their elbowed teammate?”

“Simple,” Roberto grinned. “They talk to each other. It’s a discussion. It is the necessary work of improvisation. When all hell breaks loose, we have to be prepared to make the micro-decisions of the moment, in concert. Serendipity doesn’t happen by random chance. Serendipity is all about our intentions.”


“And only then can we create the mile markers to chart our progress, the goals, objectives of our micro-decisions. What looks like serendipity only occurs when we create the context of a plan in which to operate. It may appear we are winging it, but our actions require preparation to be effective toward our purpose.”

Calibrating Level III Roles

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

How do you incorporate Time Span into a Role Description?

This is the third post in this series.
Calibrating Level I Roles
Calibrating Level II Roles

Level III Roles
Level III roles are populated by managers responsible for production consistency, to create predictability in organizational output. Their focus is on the creation, monitoring and improvement of systems. We depend on Level III roles to create sustainable efficiencies. The problems they solve are related to work flow, system layout and sequence.

Given a problem to solve, the central question at Level III is, “why didn’t our system anticipate this problem, or why didn’t our system, at least, mitigate the damage from this problem?” To solve these problems, those in Level III roles engage in comparative analysis or root cause analysis.

The Time Span of their longest projects typically range from 1-2 years. To manage projects of this length, Level III roles depend on planning scenarios, employing “what if” analysis. In pursuit of any task assignment, they create alternate paths to the goal, contingency planning to anticipate roadblocks outside their control.