I’d rather be a Viking!
Ignoring the brutality of the era and the obvious masculine stereotype, I propose that the Viking Longship is a superior analogy for business.
Let’s begin with a bit of history (greatly simplified for the purposes of this illustration):
The Vikings were Scandinavian explorers, warriors and merchants who raided, traded and plundered their way around Europe and Asia between the 8th to 11th centuries. They were the global superpower of their era. There is evidence to suggest they discovered North America long before Columbus arrived.
The Viking Longships were fitted with oars along the length of the boat as well as a sail on a single mast. The sail enabled Longships to cover long distances at sea with minimal effort, then the oars were deployed when near the coast or when heading up a river.
The Longships were built and owned by coastal Viking villages and conscripted by the Viking King to build a powerful naval force. Every village had to deliver one ship and crew of approximately 50 men. A key advantage was that every crew had strong tribal bonds and sense of loyalty and duty to each other.
The Longship skipper used the sun and the stars and a primitive form of compass to navigate, and steered the Longship using a side mounted steering oar. Longships were not fitted with benches. When rowing, the crew sat on movable chests that contained their weapons and personal possessions. (Sounds a lot like a typical office workstation!!!!!!)
Because ships had shallow draft hulls; they could sail in shallow waters, allowing them to invade far inland by paddling up rivers. Longships were also double-ended, allowing the ship to reverse direction quickly without having to turn around. Thus, the Vikings could perform highly efficient hit-and-run attacks on coastal settlements, in which they could beach the boat, conduct a raid, and then leave rapidly before a counter-offensive could be launched.
Vision, Strategy and Business Execution – the Viking way.
Firstly, the skipper creates the Vision to motivate their crew (colonize a country, get rich, prove yourself in battle etc). (be good with money, our numbers) They keep talking about this vision to motivate their crew, especially during the tough times (sailing through scary storms, running low on supplies, injuries and setbacks in battle etc)
Secondly they craft a Strategy to realize that vision; (our 90 day plan)they secure the right resources to do the job, navigate the Longship to the target destination via the safest and most efficient route, and craft a battle plan for how they intend to attack the local population.
Everyone in the crew is vital to the Execution of the Strategy. They perform many different roles during the sailing, rowing, and raiding components of each expedition. They must work together to achieve their goals and hold each other accountable for performance – there is no room on the boat for any slackers when rowing or when engaged in battle! They align their efforts by rowing, marching and fighting in cadence.
The crew is never quite sure what challenges they will encounter on each expedition so they continually review and adapt the strategy to meet changing conditions. They get very clear on the 1 thing they need to focus on right now – every step of the way. Performance is rewarded by the fact that they all get a share of the plunder of each expedition.