I was out with my friend Billy the other day. He’s built a solid reputation as an expert in his sector, which is huge. His good work got noticed and a new customer, from another sector, came along and turned Billy’s head – “mm, hmm, that looks sweet.” And Billy’s wandering away from the focus that has done him so well.

Over there, by the bridge

“That grass sure does look green on the other side of the stream. Especially after eating this same old grass for so long. We’ve never been over there before. It’s so fresh and green. And look over there, by that troll, there’s a bridge.”

Don’t ignore the troll.

By the time your team gets past planning and into doing, you’ve probably spent quite a bit of time and effort coming up with the plan. And it doesn’t really matter if you’re the kind of team that works up all the options and settles on a grand scheme, or the kind that goes on a meandering journey that’s more about turning over rocks in your path – you have a plan and a path and you’re on the way. It’s a tough road, but they all are.

There’s always interesting things along the way. Plenty will sound easier, better, more exciting or just plain different, and all are very distracting. Whilst you have to be alive to opportunity, don’t ignore the troll.

Good problems

Of course, opportunities are the kind of problems it’s good to have. But which way to turn? Stay on the path you know is working, or cross the bridge on the promise of something new and potentially exciting?

When this happens, work out what’s changed. If the only change is the new distraction itself, the odds are probably still with plan A. Think about those bridges, absolutely. Note the ones that might be worth doubling back for. But for now, keep on your own side of the stream. Stick to what you know until you know it’s wrong.

If you simply can’t ignore the bridge to the other side, deal with the troll and send a scouting trip first. Be alive to opportunity, but be a healthy skeptic.

Skippy Strategy: Meet with your team to list the things that you’ve started to do in the last few months. Work out which are on the plan, which are impossible to ignore, and which are simply distractions.