Strategic Leadership

All Thrust, No Vector

The likelihood of everyone in an organization moving together to produce positive end-results is almost zero. Typically an organization is filled with friction and conflict resulting from everyone pushing in different directions.

When I was in the Air Force we used to have a saying about people who were ambitious and busy, yet didn’t seem to have a particular end in mind – “He/she is all thrust, no vector.” This was a bad label because it meant a person was quickly going nowhere in the organization.

You may have noticed a lot of organizations suffer some amount of this problem.  Individuals may push hard (thrust) for two reasons: it can make things happen in the organization and it can also feel great. Yet if the individuals in the organization were asked where they were headed, there would likely be several different destinations.

Please tighten your belt low and tight across your lap…

Most modern aircraft are equipped with amazing navigation equipment that can help pilots understand where they are and which direction they are going. The navigation equipment can even sense storms and other aircraft. Yet the most important part of the journey – the destination – must be supplied by the pilots before they get started.

The end goal, and how the pilots want to get there, is called the flight plan. Interestingly, the plane will be off-course most of the flight. So why is a flight plan worth anything? Because without the plan, the pilots wouldn’t know which way they needed to correct the plane in order to bring it back on course.

…We May Experience Some Turbulence Ahead

In your business it’s critical to have a ‘flight plan’ of sorts – something to help everyone clearly understand where the organization is headed, along with a plan to get there. Without the plan, it’s likely that people will head in different directions, remain off-course, resulting in lots of problems.

Can you imagine if a pilot and copilot were trying to head to different airports? Is it possible that some people in your organization disagree on the destination?

Actions You Can Take

  1. Get clear on the business goals. Make sure everyone really understands the destination and what success looks like long-term.  There should be clear, objective, measurable, and doable milestones to help guide the organization to the destination. Bonus challenge:  first ask people where they think the organization is heading.
  2. Understand the path to get there. Help your team explore the methods, both chosen and possibilities, that would ensure the organization reaches its destination. Bonus challenge: try to listen to others sharing the direction with one another to understand if it matches your destination.
  3. Implement corrective measures.  Assisting a team to stay focused on a common end-result can be a tedious endeavor.  Use various communication methods such as email, voicemail or meetings to convey desired results. Bonus challenge: allow others to lead communication efforts.

About the Author: Chris Hutchinson, President and CEO of Trebuchet Group, helps facilitate leadership growth and business success for his clients, using a collaborative approach to enable effective and lasting results. He can be reached at   © 2010 Trebuchet Group


Chris Hutchinson

As CEO of Trebuchet Group, Chris Hutchinson thrives working with clients and his team to improve organizational clarity, teamwork, and leadership impact.

After years of building Legos® and tree houses around the world, Chris earned his Mechanical Engineering degree and followed that with an MBA. His experiences in the military and the business world taught him great leadership can be learned, and everyone is in some way a leader.

Clients and peers describe him as an inspirational catalyst for positive change. He is the author of Ripple - A Field Manual for Leadership That Works.

Chris and his wife live, garden, and bike in Fort Collins, Colorado, and have four children. He has an unrequited love affair with brownies.