Fire up the two strategic engines

23 Feb, 2020 - 00:02 0 Views

The Sunday Mail

Hunt forGreatness

Your frames of reference matter. They determine the way you see the world, see yourself and the decisions you make. Change starts when you change your frames of reference and you fire the right engine. No pilot will dare fly on one engine confidently. So it is with any individual or organisation — two engines are critical. You have to fire both, differently though.

One target your core — the present and the other focuses on the future and new platforms of growth.

The present is real and cannot be wished away or ignored without dire consequences. Wishful thinking is not a strategic move, hope is not a strategic initiative. Something in life require you to go deeper. While the future is coming and cannot be ignored. Thinking strategically requires that you confront the brutal facts of today, and win the battle of survival and sustainability. At the same time you have to face the prospects of major changes, shifts and disruption in tomorrow’s battlefield. Play in the game of today, but prepare for the match tomorrow against a different competitor on a different turf.

Picture this as the essential twin engines of life and business. Engine 1 flies today’s business. It is your core and you must fight to survive and play to win. Engine 2 flies the business of tomorrow. What tomorrow looks like will be so different from today. All your assumption could be invalidated. In thinking strategically you have to engage both Engine 1 and Engine 2. You need both engines to work at the same time but not on the same things.

When you get used to bad news, you get set in bad habits. It is easy to get set in “emergency-crisis-and-queuing” mode. This mould can be broken. The greatest tragedy in life is doing what does not need to be done. It is time to take back control of the headlines and to determine a new story-line.

The battles of today do not need to be seen as eternal banishment. Fight your Engine 1 battles, with an efficient engine, improving all the time. These are the battles to survive and thrive in the present. Yet, take control of the new realities, emerging trends and disruptive forces through your strategic Engine 2 actions.

Engine 1 is about the present reality, current business, current customers, current capabilities and current models. It is about dealing with the brutal realities that you face and delivering growth using the current resources and working with what you have and are facing. Engine 1 is your strategy to thrive and survive in whatever circumstances that you find yourself in. Stop wishing you were elsewhere and play where you are. If you do not survive today, there will be no tomorrow to dream about.

Jim Collins (2001) in his legendary book, Good to Great, talks about the Stockdale Paradox. It states that regardless of what you face, you must retain faith that you will prevail in the end and you must also confront the most brutal facts of your current reality. Your current battlefield is not a place for hiding or running away, hoping to come back when there is no more challenge. It is when things are toughest that the best lessons are learnt. Determine that whatever the difficulties you may face you will come back from the difficulties stronger and not weaker. You will swim across, work through, and plough through every obstacle. This is the essence of Engine 1 thinking: making whatever you are doing today a success.

Engine 1 thinking means that whatever you are doing today determine that you will survive and thrive. The journey may be hard, so harden up and keep playing. The task may be heavy, heave off the things that hold you back and keep playing to win. Engine 1 thinking is about attending to excellence, penetrating markets deeper and doing your hustle better.

Engine 1 thinking is about incremental innovation.

It is the spirit of continuous improvements and the slight edge. It is about being a little better today than you were yesterday. You do not have the luxury of parking in the same place and remaining stagnant. Keep pushing and shuffling your feet, regardless of how heavy the terrain may be. The goal is to keep moving from good to great.

Engine 2 is about radical innovation. Looking at the horizon, best practices are not enough, you have to look at the next practices.

The future is different and radically so. This requires new thinking and new ways of working. This requires Engine 2 thinking. Engine 2 thinking has to do with how you will play in a new battlefield, disrupt your own thinking and innovate. Engine 2 is about radical change and transformation.

Radical change requires different thought models and a different engine. R. Buckminster Fuller once wrote: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

This is the essence of Engine 2 thinking, build new models and capabilities to play in a game that is so different from the present.

Do not fight so hard with people that are such in the past and glued to the present, while blind to the future. Fighting for what is obsolete is not a worthy Engine 2 investment. It is not enough to excel at Generation 1, you need to be thinking about Generation 3 and 4. Do not let the dark clouds of the present stop you from dreaming and envisioning.

The best time to think strategically is when you are facing chaos and things all seem to be crazy. Some people wait for calm times to engage in serious strategy planning, and that is a waste. It is like waiting for the rain to stop to start selecting the best umbrella and rain gear. The time to engage Engine 2 thinking is now when you are firing Engine 1. Engine one gives you the fuel and cashflow for you to survive and be strong enough to fight future battles. Engine 2 gives you growth options and platforms.

What links what you are doing today and what you will do tomorrow is a whole set of new capabilities, models and mindsets. There are things that you are doing well today that you have to unlearn. There is a lot more to learn.

There are things that made you successful that you need to stop doing because they will not sustain you going into the future.

Regrettably there are also people who are around you today that may not fit into your future.

There are habits that have worked in the past that will not work in the future. Keep thinking and challenging yourself through Engine 1 and Engine 2 thinking. Preserve the core, but start stimulating progress. You have to do both Engine 1 and Engine 2.

Committed to your greatness.



Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author, and growth mentor. He is a cutting-edge strategy, team-building and organisation development facilitator and consultant. His life purpose is to inspire and promote greatness. He can be reached at: [email protected] and Twitter: @MiltonKamwendo. His website is:


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