The Word “Pivot” - yuck! Pivot is one word in business that drives me crazy. Especially when used like this:
“We are pivoting.” Or “We pivoted.”
What I hear is this: “We were going the wrong way, we stopped and now we are facing another direction while still stopped with zero momentum.”
The problem with the word pivot in my mind is it infers rotational motion while specifying immobility, or complete loss of momentum.
Why do I think this way? Well, because I am a horrible basketball player and I always traveled when I was trying to pivot.
Think about the rules and coaching: “Establish your pivot foot Walt and don’t pick it up or move it. You can rotate around your pivot foot and move the other foot, but you can not take a step.”
When pivoting we are locked in a circular zone, stuck, unable to move, if we move from our pivot point we get the whistle and turn the ball over. Bummer! Not only have we lost all momentum, we have given it to our competitors.
I would rather hear: “We Tacked, or we are tacking“. When I hear the word “tack” I think of a change in direction while maintaining movement, speed and momentum.
Most of you know I sail and have raced sailboats all over the world.
Lesson: “Staying in Phase by Tacking and Gybing.”
In the sport of sailing we use the wind and the direction of the wind to get where we want to go. We try to anticipate what the wind will do, will it increase or decrease, will it change direction? Getting in sync with these changes is called “being in phase”, our goal in sailing, like in business, is to “stay in phase”, to take advantage of these changes.
The wind is the energy we harness and its parallel in business could be simplified as Sales, or Margin Dollars. “Where are the Sales coming from, where are the Gross Margin Dollars coming from? Is our business trimmed correctly to take advantage of any change?”.
If we see or anticipate a change in wind direction while sailing we Tack or Gybe, both words infer directional change while specifying mobility. If we are running with the wind and it veers 20 degrees to the right, then we might Gybe, turn 20 degrees to the left while shifting all of our sails to the other side of the boat to capture the wind energy better. If we are beating into the wind and the wind backs 15 degrees to the left, taking us away from our objective, we will probably Tack by turning the boat and resetting the sails to the new energy/wind direction. All while still Moving and Keeping our speed and intended direction, our momentum.
That is what business people are really saying: “Our Sales started coming from a different segment of the market and we Gybed to get in line with and take advantage of that new flow.” or “We knew if we slowly retooled we could Tack to meet the new market demands and get a lift in our Gross Margin Dollar contributions”
So, stop Pivoting and stay in phase by Tacking and Gybing.
Words really matter - Leaders use them wisely.