The Frequency of Cake

Statue_d'Alfred_le_Grand_à_WinchesterKing Alfred the Great ruled England from 871 to 899. Much of the writing about Alfred is quite positive: His leadership capabilities, his empathy, and his charity. In some high-spirited discussion last night, an interesting story about Alfred came to light. The story of the cakes.

The story is told in many ways, but here is the gist:

Alfred was returning from battle and landed upon a cottage in the woods. He rapped on the door and was let in by the lady of the house. He begged for a place to rest. Looking tired and worn, she took pity upon the soldier (he did not look like a king, and if he did, the nice lady would not have known.) He asked for some food and a place to rest. The kind lady advised Alfred that she was headed to town for some rations and that he needed to watch the cakes baking on the hearth. They would be ready in a short amount of time and he needed to remove the cakes before they were overcooked. He agreed to the task and she set about her trip into town.

In this short period of time, the king began to ruminate about his army, his kingdom, and the strategy and tactics of it all. The cakes burned to a crisp. Upon her return, as legend has it, the nice lady beat the king with a broom. He laughed at the situation. Am I, after all, responsible for the cakes or the kingdom?

As leaders, we must be tuned to the frequency of the significant, not distracted by the inane. Otherwise, the ability of the organization to grow and progress will invariably be limited. And the walls to the kingdom become vulnerable. That’s not to say that leadership foregoes applying right amount of money, manpower, and minutes (time) to the management of cakes. For England’s sake, it’s a good thing Alfred was on an altogether different frequency and not the frequency of cake. We should all be so wise.

2014 business plan execution waits for no one…or no date

Take action now. A small step. A minor gesture. Your 2014 plans, though large and ambitious, are made up of many small components. Don’t wait. Here are some quick tips:

  1. Set a date in 2013 by which you will have all the items listed herein in place.
  2. Enumerate your projects, listing kickoff, interim, and final dates; also, make sure that status meetings or briefings are scheduled separate from senior management and departmental meetings.
  3. Assign resources – project sponsor, manager, and team members.
  4. Develop a project management portal to house documents, conversations, and timelines.
  5. Prioritize the projects and/or confirm priorities set during the initial planning phase.
  6. Communicate to the rest of the institution that the plan is underway.

The final tip is important. It includes not only employees but Board and supervisory or executive committee members. Don’t hesitate. Act now.