Developing Business Acumen – Ready – Aim – Fire

Written by Barbara Higgins Posted in Blog

Developing Business Acumen – Ready – Aim – Fire

Business Acumen – The words reverberate with the precise confidence of success. This manager seems to have a business compass to hone in on the directional decisions that are right for the organization.

Acumen, conveys a confidence and knowledge for efficient and effective business. Although these words convey a natural ability, the truth is that business acumen is more a verb in practice than a noun. You need to develop acumen as an active search for business skills and to applying that knowledge over time. Great concept…but now you’re thinking what does that mean to me in my career?

Business acumen is about focus so let’s think about a Ready – Aim – Fire approach for your success.


Ready – Although the news focuses on people who are successful seemingly overnight, their journey has usually included several attempts. You develop good business judgement through experience, training, research, practice, and most importantly knowing what the customer expects from your organization. If you want to be ready to make the right business decisions, you need to gather the right information. History and experience can be helpful but remember to update for changes in your environment. Think like an archer who checks the distance, terrain and equipment before making decisions on each shot.

Aim – Aim is critical to focusing on your target. In archery this is the time to set the bow, make any necessary adjustments, and steady your confidence. In business, acumen is a final check of the key decisions that need to be made. Will your product hit the bullseye for your customer’s expectations? Like the changing conditions in the field, new information can be like a gust of wind and you may need to step back to refocus.

Fire – A confident leader knows when the time is right to take decisive action. Time to let the arrow fly and see how true your assumptions are in the face of reality. This leads to results…sometimes good and sometimes not so good. Acumen requires the best use of your results to adjust your next choices. Many managers neglect important feedback as decisions play out. Fine-tune and improve results based on new input. Continuous improvement comes from effectively modifying for the next iteration.

Finally, the verbal call out of Ready – Aim – Fire which allows for communication with others. It indicates your intentions to fire and your commitment to the process for those around you. Beyond the domain of the archer, most business depends on people and therefore necessitates leadership communications. Business acumen is a term of respect and honor for those managers who focus the organization’s purpose. Remember in the words of Henry Thoreau, "In the long run, you only hit what you aim at."
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About the Author

Barbara Higgins

Barbara Higgins

Barbara served as the Chief Planning Officer for CFA Institute for 7 years, responsible for the development of two long-term strategic plans and directing the annual planning, goal-setting, and reporting for this global organization. Her rich career at CFA Institute included twenty years in management positions in educational products, international conferences, customer service, and operations management. She led her many teams in training for employee empowerment, customer service, change management and leadership development. read more

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