“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations if you live near him.” J.R.R. Tolkien from The Hobbit.
Visionary leaders plan, commit resources to the plan, and check progress on achieving the plan, but wise leaders also take into account fire breathing dragons. These dragons often “live near us,” and may even reside within the organization.
Recently, while leading a strategic planning session for a large organization, I shared the Tolkien quote with the participants, and was surprised how quickly they identified dragons that may hinder them in achieving their plan. Many of these dragons were even housed in their organization.
The fire breathing dragons that reside within the organization are many times a result of organizational growth and can be particularly detrimental to the achievement of the plan. As organizations grow in size, they tend to become more bureaucratic in nature. With growth can come complex policies, non-communication departmental silos, and bureaucratic red tape that can hinder progress and kill new ideas.
As leaders plan, they must identify these fire breathing dragons and plan strategies to deal with them. In my experience, some dragons can be killed while others can be neutralized, but all must be identified. By identifying the dragons, leaders are well on their way to assuring that they don’t derail the plan. This is especially true if you live near one.