Ready! Fire! Aim! Five Trial-and-Error Steps to Perfecting Your Productivity

“Ready, fire, aim. Do it! Make it happen! Action counts. No one ever sat on their way to success.” – Tom Peters, American business writer

In the business literature, especially in articles written by academics lacking practical experience, you occasionally see tut-tutting about those who just “throw mud at the wall and see what sticks” in terms of execution. This deserves eye-rolling, because that “mud-flinging” is what people outside the ivory tower call testing.

More on that in a moment. For now, let’s go back to the origin of so many modern business practices: the military. Yes, the military teaches the “Ready, Aim, Fire!” methodology. However (and it’s a big however): You must sight-in every new rifle using Ready, Fire, Aim until you adjust its sights to hit the bullseye consistently with Ready, Aim, Fire. Another military endeavor where Ready, Fire, Aim resonates is artillery. Lacking precise coordinates, artillerists fire and use spotters to correct their aim before eventually destroying the target.

How do you apply Ready, Fire, Aim at work? Follow these five steps to make it happen.

  1. Prepare an exit strategy. It doesn’t matter if your idea is ahead of its time or you’ve just executed it poorly—if it damages your productivity, repair or abandon it. Before you make any change, arrange a way to easily roll back things to the way they were before. Don’t discard your old way, gear, or equipment; you might need them again.

  2. Realize when you know enough. Here’s where your thought becomes action if you’ve prepped properly. Go too far, and your planning soon hits a point of diminishing returns.

  3. Testing is necessary—whether you’re talking a simple A/B split test or a double-blind study of a new drug. “Ready Aim, Fire!” works fine if you’ve already done your baseline testing. But until you obtain a baseline, fire for effect. You can be sure the military tested the heck out of bullets, usually in battle, before they discovered the cartridges with the best balance of casing, primer, jacket, power load, powder type, and metal composition for their needs—and even then some of the ammo’s effectiveness depends on the firearm’s rifling, state of maintenance, and a dozen other things out of the ammo’s “control.”

  4. Ready, Aim, Fire, Fix. give the traditional way a try, and see where you actually hit the target… if you do. Before sighting in, test your ammo again first.  A warped arrow will never hit a bullseye no matter how well you aim or how nice your bow. This also holds true for an ill-advised advertisement, a bad presentation, a poorly-written blog, a flawed software module, or a flimsy product. Fix what ails your productivity, learn from your mistakes, and try again.

  5. Correct your aim. Now that you’ve got everything sighted in properly, try again. If it works, great! If not, go back a step or two and try again—or return to the drawing board..

Zero In

Stop listening to people who gripe about the Ready, Fire, Aim method. It’s a “cost of doing productivity” when you don’t already know EXACTLY what to do, or what your end-user wants. Lacking mind-readers, you’ll need to use Ready, Fire, Aim at least somewhat before you can aim accurately. Get used to it. Don’t obsess over it. Just do it and move on.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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