I was reading a book a client gave me, and I ran across an interesting concept. It’s called kedging. Back in the day, when large ships got stuck or simply couldn’t move in the direction they wanted to with their sails, they’d send out a rowboat with a rope attached to the big boat. The rowboat would go to the desired spot and then throw over a special anchor called a kedge. Next, everyone on the large ship would pull hard on the rope until the big ship reached its goal.

In the book I was reading, they used this method as an analogy to making advancements in personal fitness, but I like the analogy even better for business. In the book, they talked about using a kedging trip. Something like an extreme hiking, skiing, or biking adventure, that forces you to change and kick up your regular exercise routine in order to complete the trip.

You’ve probably already made the connection to business and goal setting. In business, I think this is similar to the concept of the big harry audacious goal (aka, “BHAG”) as coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in the book “Built to Last.” At our company, we used this after we went public. Our BHAG was to reach $1 Billion in assets. The goal seemed very ambitious at the time, and when we did accomplish it a few years ago, it was a big deal. If set right, a BHAG can be emotionally inspiring, which is a great thing.

What I like even more about kedging is it forces you to alter the “how.” If you’re stuck, you need to make a change. If you keep doing what you’re doing, simple incremental improvements will consistently move you in the right direction, but sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes you need to get a bit more creative and do something different.

I also love the visual of everyone on the ship having to pull on the rope to move the ship forward. If you are going to make a transformative change, you really do need everyone working together which ties to the saying from sports and business of “everyone pulling on the same rope.”

This reminds me of the long term strategic planning work we did a while ago. We established some lofty goals and then concluded we couldn’t get there by doing business as usual. It caused us to work hard to examine what we had to do different to make it to those goals, followed by getting everyone focused on the objective and executing - “pulling on the same rope.” We’re kedging, I just didn’t know it.

Kedging. Think about it in terms of your personal life or business life. If you aren’t getting where you want to go, have you stopped making progress? Are you stuck? Would you benefit from a new approach? Consider kedging.