You can think about this in terms of accelerating in a car to pass another car on the highway:
- You're driving along a highway, with your engine generating just enough power and consuming just enough fuel to keep you cruising at a steady pace.
- Then you notice congestion building around you, and you start to assess your options. Should I switch lanes to get past that slow driver up ahead? Is that car going to pull over to the right lane or exit the highway soon? What is other traffic doing around me?
- Then, once you've assessed your options, you make the decision to pass.
- You gear down, step on the gas, change lanes, and away you go...you accelerate past the slower traffic.
- Once past the slower drivers, you pull back into the right lane and settle back into your steady cruising pace. The cycle is complete.
Or maybe it's not a slow driver, but you see a sign indicating delays ahead. You might ask yourself if there is an alternate route to get around the construction zone, and assess whether or not the alternatives might be better than just continuing along your current route. You make a decision to take that route, circumvent the delay, and get back on track once you've passed the construction zone.
It is the same in business...you're cruising along taking care of your day-to-day tasks that keep your business ticking along (cruising). Then you notice changes coming down the pike, or get frustrated experiencing the same delays over-and-over. You assess the alternatives, make a decision to do something about the issues that you face and get into action to make the changes you need to make. Whether it's implementing new processes to become more efficient and reduce headaches, creating a new marketing initiative, entering a new market or product line, or adapting your business model, each of these examples follows the principles of the Acceleration Cycle.
Another analogy of the Acceleration Cycle that resonates for me is to think about it in terms of playing sports. Hockey is a great example and one that's topical given that the Stanley Cup playoffs are reaching an apex. Think about the Canucks' top impact players during their current playoff run - Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows.
Do they jump onto the ice and go full-bore their entire 30-second shift? Of course not. They would exhaust themselves within a dozen seconds and would be wheeling around, at the edge of control, barely able to adapt to the plays developing around them. So what do they actually do?
Simple. They play the game using the Acceleration Cycle to optimize their performance and outcomes:
Cruising: Sitting on the bench, conserving energy, hydrating, watching the play on the ice, sharing ideas with teammates.
Assessing: On the ice, watching the plays develop, noticing who's on the ice with you and against you, assessing opportunities to create an impact.
Decision Point: Selecting a course of action, whether it's a set-play or an in-the-moment, opportunistic improvisation.
Accelerating: Full-on effort to create the scoring chance or break-up a play by the opposition.
Then they return to the bench to recover, rehydrate and conserve their energy before their next shift. Indeed, they might go through the cycle several times in a shift, conserving energy by skating at 60% effort, and assessing the play when the puck is not near them, then accelerating into the play when the timing is right.
So, why is each stage of the Acceleration Cycle important?
Cruising: If you're running at full bore all the time, you won't have the energy or capacity to accelerate and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. This is the time to start marshalling the resources you think you might need in the near future.
Assessing: If you just jump into action on the first thing that comes to mind, you may find yourself a spinning your wheels on a string of false-starts that don't move you forward in the longer term.
Decision Point: It is critical that you come a decision on what path to pursue or you will be stuck in analysis and never move any initiatives forward.
Accelerating: This is the doing. The 100% effort, get it done action that moves your initiatives forward.
So...what frustrations are holding you back and what obstacles lie ahead for your business? What are your options and which alternatives are consistent with your vision and strategy and will move your business forward? What action do you need to take to make those initiatives take shape? What resources do you need to allocate to get it done?
Make the decision and get to it!