Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Business Speak

Competitive runners who also work corporate jobs face obstacles that full-time runners don't.  Some are pretty obvious -- time limitations mean that you don't sleep enough, or miss a workout due to last minute travel, or don't have time to foam-roll and stretch.

But there's another obstacle that's less immediately obvious, but still quite significant.  The mentality that's encouraged in the modern corporate workplace is not the optimal mindset for competitive running.

Yeah, sounds a little overthought, doesn't it. 

But that's exactly the point.  The corporate world encourages overthinking and overanalysis -- qualities that interfere with the mental focus that works best for competitive endurance sports.

For example, we all have bad races.  And many times, the best thing to do after a bad race or workout is to move on.  You can give it a bit of consideration to see if there were obvious causes, but don't obsess on it for days.  Just put it out of your mind and move forward.  Sometimes we just have bad days.

Not so in the corporate world.  Major incidents and failures call for root cause analysis - often a lengthy identification of all potential causes for the event, followed by extensive evaluation of each.  And determination of the culprit.  Saying "we don't know what was just a bad day...let's move on" can result in moving on to a new company.

Similarly, projects in the corporate world have road maps.  Figure out what you want to accomplish, map out the steps for getting there, and set checkpoints to assess where you stand.  And missing checkpoints or deadlines or steps on the road map is not good, come year-end evaluation/bonus time.

In running, we have training plans, which are similar to road maps.  But with a key difference.  Sometimes it's better to miss the checkpoint or the deadline.  Or to skip a step.  At your goal race, it's not how well you executed the training plan, but how well you ran the race, that matters.  But mental habits formed in one context are hard to shed in the other.

And the corporate world also relies on benchmarking.  For example, in the information security context, groups will compare their security practices to their peers in the same industry, with a focus towards ensuring that they meet the industry standard.  But constantly comparing how you're training or racing relative to others, and revising accordingly, is a sure path to running disaster long term.  Desi Davila could be considered the industry standard in training for a marathon, but that doesn't mean I should train like her.

In a way, this is good.  The fact that the modern corporate mindset is counter productive to running means that running also provides an opportunity to take a vacation from working life, even if only for 30 minutes during a tempo.  Shut off from the grind and live in the moment.

But being able to shift from corporate mentality to running mindset is also a skill, and one that's surprisingly hard to develop.


  1. Wow, I have a lot to say on this topic and I actually think about it quite frequently. I agree with you that this is how many businesses operate, but I thnk the most successful businesses dont't have this mentality.

    Roadmaps, I would argue, should allow for flexibility. You have to expect that in business, the will be some bumps. If you ignore them and still stick to the schedule, the product will have problems. In my business, we update and modify the roadmap all the time. It's great that we know what we need to do and when, but sometimes new things come up and priorities shift.

    I also think tha post run or race, a root cause analysis is important. Although you wouldn' t want to dwell on it, you would want a defined period of tme post race to review it so yo can learn from what worked and what didn't work. I agree, sometimes there is no cause and you just don't have it in you that day. But yo should take the time to figure out id that was actually the case, or was the stratefy off, was it hydration, was there some factor that you could learn from. But once that analysis is done, and it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes, you move on.

  2. Excuse all the typos. I couldnt't get my ipad to go back and correctl text.