Steering, not aiming

The atoll dwellers of the Caroline islands have a navigation system known as the ‘etak system’. Each etak (segment) of the voyage uses a different navigation model.

The model that every single journey includes, at least at the beginning and end, if not the entire journey, is the etak of sight. The navigation model for when you can see land.

Navigation for airplane pilots makes a similar distinction, between VFR or Visual Flight Rules, and IFR or Instrument Flight Rules. Weather conditions, navigation rules, and training requirements are different between the two.

When we are navigating within the etak of sight, there are still constant tactical decisions needed, and plenty of opportunities to capsize. All those decisions are anchored around, confirmed or cautioned by, made in service of: the direction we are trying to go. We can see right away if a correction is needed, and so we worry less about each little adjustment being perfect for the whole voyage.

Instead we steer, constantly making small adjustments and not overthinking each decision or forming a committee to approve it, because we know the cost of correcting a decision is much lower than the cost of overanalyzing it.

Many many organizations and software projects are within the etak of sight. We can deliver incredible projects and undertake great journeys without ever needing to incur the cost of full blown middle-of-the-ocean navigation models.

Despite the fascination and appeal of complex analysis, of beautiful & sophisticated models and calculations, everyone can plainly see if you are going in the right direction. Stop wasting time aiming and start steering.

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