Well, the first quarter is over. Finished. In the books.
How did you do?
Did you make budget? Did you reach your goals? Did you meet the expectations set by your organization, shareholders, customers, and employees?
Did you accomplish the things you set out to achieve? Did the strategies you put in place pan out like you thought they would?
What’s that? You didn’t have any strategies? Oh…
Too many leaders navigate their way through the year without a strategic plan. This is a mistake. You may have goals, but without a strategy, you have no clear path to achieve them. You have no idea how close you are to the finish line. You have no way of knowing whether or not you are headed in the right direction until the final numbers come out. In short, a goal without a plan to achieve it is just a dream.
Perhaps you achieved your goals. If so, congratulations. But how do you what activities resulted in the victory? How do you know you didn’t just get lucky? Operating without a plan is like going on vacation without consulting a map. Having a clearly defined plan for achieving your goals gives you control over your destiny. And which would you rather do … wander around blindly, hoping for the best … or execute a strategy that’s designed to provide the results you want?
That’s what I thought.
How about we approach the second quarter with intention? Let’s put together a set of strategies – a plan – that will get us where we want to be. Here’s how…
1. Clearly define the results you are after. Start with your annual goal. Subtract the gains you’ve made year-to-date (or subtract your losses) to get a true picture of the mountain you have left to climb. Now break that goal into smaller, more manageable chunks. I like to focus on 90 day increments. That’s long enough to implement some fairly detailed tactics, but about as long as you can keep people focused on a specific initiative. And you need your team to stay focused. Plus 90 days will get us to the end of June – a perfect time to regroup and refocus.
2. Develop a set of strategies to address the goal. With your 90 day goal(s) now in mind, it’s time to devise your strategy. Pull your team together and share one of your 90 day goals. Now lead a brainstorming session to generate a list of actions the team will engage in over the next three months. It’s important that everyone participate in this meeting. You want as diverse a group of people as possible. How can you expect to uncover new ideas if you don’t entertain new perspectives? Make sure to use the SMART Goal formula to refine each idea. (I’ll write more about brainstorming and SMART Goals in the near future.)
3. Execute your plan. The best strategies are useless if they aren’t implemented; so get moving. Every day counts and 90 days will be over before you know it. Delegate responsibilities, allocate resources, and provide the necessary motivation/accountability. Don’t assume that communicating the plan once at the beginning of your initiative is good enough. Most people require regular communication to stay engaged. Our tendency is to wander off track, so need something, or someone, to pull us back in line.
4. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. After 90 days of focusing on your strategic plan, it’s time to start over. Assess your progress to determine if your strategies have been successful. With a new goal in hand, reconvene the team to discuss the next 90 days. What strategies have been successful? What can be done to make them even more so? Conversely, what strategies failed? What can be done to salvage or replace them?
We all need goals to help move us forward. A properly designed goal provides a target to work toward and a measuring stick for performance. But unless the goal is accompanied by a well thought out strategic plan, it’s hard to know the way forward. The absence of a plan means you’re left with luck as your strategy. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not depend on that.
If all of this sounds intimidating, or you’d like some assistance developing good strategies, give me a call. I’d love to help.