Yesterday, I participated in a leadership meeting for my local Rotary Club. The club has faced several challenges post Covid and the meeting’s scope concerned how to navigate those challenges. One of the key issues identified was the cost of AV for the weekly lunches. It’s not clear why, but AV costs have escalated in the past year (a broad industry trend beyond our club).

One of the ideas to address this high fixed cost was to purchase AV equipment and have Rotary members run it each week. This would be fairly quick to implement and cost under $1000. The drawbacks were that we had to find a group within the club to learn and manage the equipment and we had to be able to store the equipment somewhere.

An alternative idea was to offer sponsorship to a local AV company, bring them on as members, and have them run the meeting at cost. The drawbacks to this were that the market dynamics make it so that AV companies probably don’t need marketing (pricing is up, their services are in demand) and it sets a precedent that some “volunteers” are paid.

The purpose of the meeting was to develop a plan to address issues, but it wasn’t clear which of these solutions we should pursue. This is a crossroads which is probably familiar to you. You have a clear goal, but not a route to achieve it, just a few ideas.

For example, you might want more leads so that you can grow your business. You have some ideas about how you might get more leads, but you don’t really know which one to execute on.

What I shared with my fellow Rotarians was how this situation is similar to missions in the infantry. Your command gives you a mission (goal), but they don’t tell you how to achieve it. Because you don’t know what it’s going to take, you can’t create a briefing (plan) to layout how to execute it. Instead, you execute what’s known as a warning order. A warning order takes the mission and delegates tasks to everyone who will plan that mission. It assigns someone to review the map and plan a route, someone to create a terrain model, someone to coordinate ammunition, food, and water, someone to get radios and communication equipment, and someone to write the briefing. It’s a plan for the plan.

For the AV case, we didn’t have enough information to chart a path forward. Instead, we assigned two people to do discovery on both options.

Sometimes the path forward isn’t about executing change, but is instead about laying the foundation for change.