Making Sense of Perilous Times


On Oct. 9, the Dow closed below 8,600 for the first time since 2003. It is off nearly 40 percent from its all-time high of 14,164, which came just one year ago. Banks around the world are being nationalized, Iceland grapples with the possibility of a “national bankruptcy,” and credit markets remain seized. These are perilous times indeed. Some, like Warren Buffet, see opportunities to make sizable investments. Others look for safety, trying to conserve cash. Some just stare blankly, hoping the crisis will magically disappear. What do you see?

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve asked executives, clerks, managers, and small-business owners across the country what they think. Most are still trying to make sense of it all. The strategy cycle we discuss in The Breakthrough Company is a sense-making activity. Done right, it helps us quickly process insights, make decisions, take action, and improve.

Through our study of some exceptional breakthrough companies, we’ve learned they work tirelessly to compress their strategy cycle time. It doesn’t take them three months or a major consulting project to refresh their strategy. They understand the value of velocity versus perfection. The strategy cycle is something they do formally every quarter with just a day or two of focused attention and then follow up as needed with mini-cycles.

You can start to compress your own strategy cycle time and enhance your sense-making by explicitly turning insights into action every day. Make it your mission to be a pro at it. Practice it like a great tennis player practices their serve. Work at it every day. Take 10 minutes right now and ask yourself, “What one thing should I do tomorrow that will have the biggest positive impact on my business?” And then don’t stop until it’s done.

This entry is also published in The Breakthrough Company Blog at

ActionBrett Pinegar