Navigation: Keeping your organization on track in a changing world

By Brad Palmer

3 min read

Navigation – knowing where to go and how to get there.

Navigation is not as simple as picking a destination and following your compass from A to B. Conditions change and dangers lurk. Everyone on the ship needs to work as a team and maintain a keen watch to ensure a successful journey.

Navigation requires good information, keen awareness, and careful analysis—but this is no longer the job of a single, all-wise leader. Rather it involves aligning and enabling extended teams that collectively provide the necessary awareness and analytical skills.

It’s foolish to rely on a single navigator. Organizations need to take teamwork to a level where navigation becomes a collective instinct.

There are three essential elements for enabling and aligning teams: Destination, connectedness, and awareness. All three can collectively help you anticipate market shifts, react quickly to competitive threats, and efficiently deliver innovative systems.

DESTINATION is critical. To make steady progress in a chaotic world, your organization must have a grand goal in clear view.

Destinations should be a statement of intent, rather than a precise definition of the end result. Conditions will change and you do not exactly understand the nature of your destination before you depart. Better to head for “find cool spices and get rich” than “get to longitude X and latitude Y”. A good destination provides purpose. It encourages innovation and adaptation along the way.

The destination needs to be understood by everyone. It needs to be simple, clear, and all encompassing. Once this happens everyone on the team is equipped to make the decisions relating to their own day-to-day task. This will get you to the destination in a safer, faster way. It will also help spot dangers along the way.

What is your destination? Is it shared by all? If not, how do you know where you are going?

CONNECTEDNESS is all about teamwork. It has several important elements:


A healthy culture provides vibrant sense of who you are as an extended team, as you strive towards your destination together.


Values provide a clear understanding of how individuals should act as part of the team. What are you prepared to do (and not do) to get you to your destination?


Clarity on who is doing what. Who is on which teams? What are those teams trying to accomplish? How do they fit together into the greater quest?

Once this clarity has been provided, individuals are enabled to do their own local navigation. They can spot the “white space” between their role and those surrounding them.


All of this – destination, culture, values and organizational structure – needs to be clearly communicated in real time. This includes frequent reports of progress and successes along the way.

Do you feel connected to distant teams that are heading to the same destination as you? If not, why not? And what can you do to better connect and align?

AWARENESS is each individual watching internally and externally for signs of progress, evolving trends, and looming threats that are relevant to speeding your path to the destination.

Most companies do an OK job of external awareness. They keep a good eye on market trends and competitive activities. There are also a lot of data sources and monitoring tools to help them do this.

Maintaining an internal awareness is often harder. Is there a rumor circulating that is affecting employee productivity? Are their teams that have a different destination in mind? Are their innovative ideas that can get you to your destination faster that are not being heard?

Internal awareness is also about being able to quickly muster the best resources to deal with treats and opportunities along the way. Do you know where expertise and knowledge lie? Do you know which teams have capacity to immediately help out?

A pet peeve of mine is how project managers constantly form project teams with the same people on them. To me this screams of poor internal awareness and teamwork. Why are they not searching the organization for the best resources for the job at hand? Why are then not giving new employees a better chance to learn and demonstrate their skills?

Do you know where specific skills and knowledge reside in your organization? What can you do to improve this?

Corporate navigators are able to see around corners. They spot opportunities and incipient changes. Organizations that navigate well connect the dots to make sense of things, allowing them to stay ahead of trends in an changing world.

So set your destination, enable your team and accelerate your journey.


Brad Palmer

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