5 Leadership Lessons I Learnt From My Family Driving Holiday

The summer holidays are almost over and most of us are slowly getting back to work with resolutions, goals and a rejuvenated personal drive to make 2017 a great year.   As leaders, we try do this by inspiring the workforce, engaging the teams and setting clear objectives/ milestones.  After one of the family holidays involving a long drive, I realised that there were five distinct steps that got us to the destination safely and on time.  The same five steps could be used to develop a great road-map (pun intended) to successfully navigate any business to a great position.

These five steps form the acronym DRIVE (Destination, Route, Individual Alignment, Verification checks, Endurance) and you may feel that you have all or some of these elements in your business already.  However,  the effectiveness and the detail to which these steps are embedded in the business make a significant difference to whether you have a team performing at their peak or not.

“If you can successfully organise and DRIVE your family to a holiday destination, you can set goals and easily DRIVE  your business to a great position.”


Let’s explore the five steps of the DRIVE process:

  1. Destination: Planning the destination before you drive-off on a holiday with your family can remove a lot of stress, frustration and headaches  – especially with young children.  You need to plan out exactly where you want to go taking into account your family’s liking, budget, distance the kids can tolerate in the car etc.  Unsurprisingly, a trip with a well-planned destination is more likely to succeed, though you can sometime get lucky without much planning.

Similarly, at the core of leading a business successfully requires having clear goals.  This is not a new discovery at all.  However, there are two common traps that businesses tend to fall into when setting goals – not communicating widely enough across the business and setting goals that are difficult to track/measure.  Having a set of clear goals for the next 3 years that are communicated and displayed in pictorial format with a catch-cry that describes the end point well, is a proven format that has worked for many businesses.


  1. Route: Once the business goals (destination) have been finalised, we need to explore how to get there.  It is one thing knowing where you want to go, but if you haven’t explored all  the options you have, your journey may not be the most efficient one.  This is the case both from a business point of view as well as for our family holiday.  It is important that you lay out a roadmap with milestones to achieve at various stages.  Breakdown the 3 year goals into strategic macro steps which helps employees understand how you are planning to arrive at your destination.  This is similar to getting your family to agree on (in advance) the route you are planning to take which can sometimes eliminate the need to defend your decision later on.


  1. Individual Alignment: This is the critical step where you get the individuals of your business engaged and involved. The idea of this step is to align tactical tasks for each individual in such a way that they could relate their contribution towards each of the strategic macro steps developed in the second step above.  This will help you get buy-in from many employees.  Continuing with our family holiday example, would you pack the car, get the snacks organised, select all the toys/books, fold the clothes & pack the suitcases for everyone all by yourself, or would you rather allocate tasks to each family member?  Lessen your load and  get everyone to contribute.  You don’t have to be the one doing all the work!


  1. Verification Checks: So far you have got yourself ready for a fantastic holiday.  There are certain things you can verify to ensure that your trip is as smooth as possible and importantly, that you actually arrive at the destination safely and on time.  For example, ensuring the car is serviced prior to the trip; re-fuelling the day before; checking the spare tyre etc.  While driving you regularly glance at the dashboard to ensure the vehicle is performing as expected – the engine temperature and fuel level.  You might wash the windscreen to get a clearer view of the road  ahead, check the mirrors to see what’s around you including the blind spots to ensure that there are no nasty surprises.  In business, all of this is applicable – metaphorically.  Do you have an up-to-date business dashboard that tells you exactly how your  business is running?  Do you check your blind spots?  Do you have a process in place that systemises all this so that all the critical checks get done at the right time?


  1. Endurance: Your best laid plans and preparation may not get you to your destination on time if there’s a major accident on the way. You may experience a flat tyre or someone may suddenly need to answer a nature’s call.  How major or trivial these unexpected challenges may be, your task as a leader is to face these challenges and get to your planned destination with minimal disruption.  How well are you and your team prepared to deal with business situations that might get you off-track?  Developing  capabilities within the business to effectively solve problems (root cause analysis)  will increase your success rate.


Even if you don’t have any unexpected issues, do you have a way of reducing the burden (i.e. costs) in a strategic way to identify initiatives to make your journey lighter?  You need a process to continually question and challenge the status quo and implement a few key trasnforamational initiatives effectively with the limited resources you have.  This will help you to arrive at the destination ahead of time – no one got hurt, you didn’t forget anything, everyone is happy about the journey and the destination, you used less fuel and you are not stressed!  Now you have enough time to enjoy your holiday.


Once rejuvenated we can plan for your next journey.  What is your desired next destination?

Under Ishan’s leadership, I worked on the initial development of Kellogg’s Continuous Improvement Center of Excellence (COE) work system. Ishan led this global, diverse, cross-functional team creating direction and driving alignment in completing this work. Moreover, Ishan was able to anticipate and manage risks encountered during implementation. I look forward to an opportunity to work with Ishan again, “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

Dave Clare

Designation: Continuous Improvement Manager – Kellogg North America

“In 2012 CCI invited Ishan to present at our ASPAC TRACC Conference in Beijing, China. At the time he was a leading the Kellogg’s WCO programme in Australia, a global initiative launched by the US cereals giant to implement and systematize world class operations. As a speaker, Ishan impressed with his engaging style and his unbridled passion for building strong systems to accelerate world class competitiveness. Our conference was certainly enhanced by his informative and dynamic presentation, drawing upon his considerable expertise and experience in the field of Lean and Operational Excellence.”

Kevin Whelan

Designation: Executive Vice President – Europe & Latin America, Competitive Capabilities International (CCI)

“Ishan has a demonstrated a great expertise on Operational Excellence Programs, leading work systems implementation and improvement. Besides the technical skills, his leadership drive and people oriented soft skills balance the change process required to produce great results through people.”

Victor Munoz

Designation: Supply Chain Capability Manager – Kellogg Latin America