Measure Twice, Cut Once

By: Bonnie Hagemann, CEO, Executive Development Associates, Inc.

57706692 - carpenter measuring a length of wooden plank in workshop

My husband Todd is a carpenter. That’s not his day job, he is a business owner, but he is really good at wood working. Throughout the years he has built beautiful furniture, swings, and decks. The only thing about this great

skill is that he is slow. He is artistic and precise. This, of course, contributes greatly to the beauty of the things that he builds, but I am not known for my patience and have from time to time

become annoyed with the very slow pace of progress as I anxiously awaited whatever new endeavor was in process.  As the kids and I observed him in action over the years, he often shared a statement that his grandfather had passed on to him, the old adage “measure twice, cut once.” In other words, take the time to analyze exactly what is needed before you waste time and materials. This is an important part of designing anything of value.

I may be impatient, but I am not a fan of wasting time or resources. If measuring twice means that we do a better job and are more efficient in the long run, then I am all for it. Therefore, we have taken this phrase into our work with clients when it comes to creating great leadership programs.  EDA has been designing programs for executives and high potentials working within medium and large organizations since the early 1980s.  We are a custom shop, meaning that we want our customers’ leadership programs to fit like a well-tailored suit. Developing a pipeline of fully equipped leaders requires much more than simply teaching new skills. It should also advance your strategy in the form of increased sales, decreased costs, new customer acquisition, or whatever else you envision as a success metric for your organization.  And, the only way to ensure that you have a program that uniquely fits your organization’s unique vision and needs is to take the time to “measure twice, cut once.”  This can be done effectively through a speedy and thorough needs analysis. At EDA, our process for this is called Rapid Cycle Diagnostic®.

In the 2016 Trends in Executive Development research, I was excited to learn that the concept of using executive development to execute business strategy has caught on significantly. Leaders are focused on conducting formal needs analyses early on, enabling them to identify specific capabilities needed to achieve the vision, live the values, and execute the strategy. That is to say, companies are implementing the idea of “measure twice, cut once” as they are clearly deciding that it is better to step back and take the time to understand the landscape fully before investing valuable capital in programs that may or may not help them achieve their strategic objectives.  While some leading organizations have been doing this for years, the 2016 results show that more and more are grasping the power of strategic executive development to target real and current issues, and to accelerate the advancement of the company’s strategy and business goals.

Once the measuring and cutting are complete, it’s time to design. In my opinion, this is the fun part. EDA’s design process is called Rapid-Cycle Design®. Executive and leadership development program designs can reflect a model that develops a number of leaders (such as the top 5% of the employee base) through intentional, targeted development. They can be as small as a few days of facilitated learning led by an onsite instructor to multi-year leadership programs or company universities where leaders are taught using a variety of methods including instructor-led, action learning, 1:1 coaching, facilitated webinars, just in time learning, and much more.  Whatever the case, a targeted design is both insightful and effective.  It yields real, measurable results and often has the added benefit of boosting leader morale.  Of course building anything meaningful has an associated cost, which is why we hope more and more organizations continue to apply the concept of “measure twice and cut once” to their learning and development designs for leadership programs to quickly identify and implement lasting, beneficial solutions that produce tangible results.

About the Author:

Bonnie Hagemann is the CEO of Executive Development Associates. She has over 15 years of experience successfully leading consulting firms through times of rapid growth and acquisitions as well as economic downturn and downsizing, in addition to 25 years of experience coaching, educating and developing leaders.

Bonnie has 33 published works including a book on the shifting workforce demographics and their impact on leadership entitled Decades of Differences. She leads research initiatives and publishes results in the areas of Trends in Executive Development, Executive Coaching and High Potential Development.