Byron's Babbles

Fishing for Strategy

Posted in Educational Leadership, Inspirational, Leadership, Learning Organization, Strategic Planning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 9, 2015


14 Pound King Salmon Caught By Heath!

   “The set of actions an organization chooses to pursue in order to achieve its objectives. These deliberate actions are puzzle pieces that fit together to create a clear picture of how the people, activities, and resources of an organization can work effectively to accomplish a collective purpose.” ~ Stacey Childress

While our family was in Michigan this past weekend, my son and I went fishing in Lake Michigan. There was something really special about being on the boat and headed out to the middle of Lake Michigan at 5:00 a.m. on the morning of the Fourth of July. It was cold and foggy and I couldn’t help but think of George Washington crossing the Delaware.

I was struck by how the captain of the Dreamweaver III, our charter, used strategic planning to give us a great experience. Strategic planning is about the allocation of resources to carry out the mission, vision, and goals of the organization. Our mission, vision, and goal was very simple: Catch Fish!

To that end, our captain, Shane Ruboyianes, had pulled satellite images of water temperatures and had plotted the best fishing location based on the catches of the previous week’s excursions and the temperature bands on the satellite images. He explained that the band was wider on our day of fishing than on the previous days. The tighter the band, he explained, the tighter the fish hang to the edge of the warm temperature band. Thus, the greater the likelihood of catching our limit – five each. Our captain then informed us that he thought our best strategy (he used that term) was to go one hour out (one way) to the middle of Lake Michigan to fish. On a seven hour fishing trip we would be committing two hours of our trip (time resource) to this strategy. We committed the two hour resource of time.IMG_2890


Heath with the lure he caught his big King Salmon on!


A Collection of Some of Our Lures Used

Then the lures became a strategic resource. We caught a Coho Salmon right of the bat. Then we went on a dry spell and decide to change a couple of lures to different colors and configurations and began to catch fish again; One more Coho and a Steelhead Salmon. Then another dry spell and another lure change which brought about two more fish. Long story short, we ultimately caught nine fish on seven different lures and eight different rods. We we one short of reaching our limit, but still a successful day. Also, it should be noted that we caught four of the five species of fish in season right now: Coho Salmon, Steelhead Salmon, King Salmon, and Lake Trout (we did not catch a brown trout).


The Product of our Great Morning Together!

Relating the story back to strategy in action, I want to visit the three important strategic planning questions that Elizabeth Curtis and Elizabeth City describe in their book Strategy in Action: How School Systems Can Support Powerful Learning and Teaching (2012). During my studies at Harvard University with these two great strategic planning gurus I learned the importance of answering these three questions when beginning strategic planning.

  1. What are we doing? Fishing on Lake Michigan
  2. Why are we doing it? Catch Salmon to eat and spend quality time together as dad and lad
  3. How are we doing it? Hired a highly recommended charter boat. Based on water temperature maps we committed to going 30 miles (one hour) out. Based on the fish caught, we changed lures accordingly.

So, what’s the lesson? We made a commitment to where we would fish – it would have been tough to change after committing to this. Conversely, we were agile about lures – constantly changing according to what was being caught.

How can you relate this story to your organization’s strategic planning?

Is your organization agile enough to make course corrections according to what the data is telling you?


Curtis, R. E. & City, E.A. (2012). Strategy in action: How school systems can support powerful learning and teaching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: