Up Your Business is an exclusive GEARS Magazine feature in which I share stories, insights, and reflections about real business and life challenges.
2016… a new year. Time sure flies when you get old.
By now, you’ve already written your goals and objectives for 2016, right? If you have, you get an “atta boy” (excuse the gender-based political incorrectness). You get a double atta boy if you’ve also put pencil to paper (man, am I dating myself!) to lay out a plan for accomplishing those goals.
If you haven’t, don’t feel alone or that I’m picking on you. My assumption is intended to be a little sarcastic because, the truth is, less than 20% of us actually set written goals that include execution plans. In this article, I’m going to discuss why we should do it, some of the reasons we don’t do it, and a simple (really simple) process for getting it done.
A line from an old Jim Croce song pondered, “…if dreams could make wishes come true…” And it’s been said that a goal is just a dream with a deadline. Let’s take a look at how you can make your wishes come true with some simple steps to turn your dreams into accomplished goals.
New Year’s Resolutions
New Year’s resolutions seldom deliver the results you’re hoping for. As recently as a few weeks ago, almost everyone made at least one New Year’s resolution, and most of them have probably already been broken.
Have you ever noticed how short-lived New Year’s resolutions are? Have you ever wondered why? I think one reason is because we take them too lightly or they pertain to rather trivial aspects of our lives.
New Year’s resolutions are often expressed without much forethought, a lack of serious commitment, no execution plan, nor any real expectation for accomplishing them. To top it off, the only consequence for not accomplishing them is that the past simply repeats itself… an acceptable result for many of us.
Goals with Execution Plans
If your goal-setting process has been more like making New Year’s resolutions, good luck. Research studies confirm that written goals have a far greater likelihood of success. But when written goals are accompanied by an execution plan, the likelihood of success increases significantly.
Planning is what differentiates serious goal setting from being nothing more than New Year’s resolutions. This is why you need to write out your goals and include a plan to accomplish them. General Eisenhower is known for being one of the best military strategists in history. He observed, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
A key benefit to an execution plan is that you’ll clarify your vision and purpose. But the process of designing the plan provides other important benefits as well.
You won’t have to wonder or worry about whether it’s achievable because, in the planning process, you’ll discover hurdles and barriers, determine the available and needed resources, and establish a reasonable timeline for accomplishing the goal. Logic and reason will guide you to make adjustments before you even begin, so you don’t launch on an ill-conceived, ill-advised project.
The point of Eisenhower’s observation was that the planning process is never over. You start with the best possible plan, but as things happen during execution of the plan, you often need to change in response; hence, planning is everything.
One of my favorite old TV shows was The A-Team. At the end of every episode, Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (George Peppard) would calmly light a cigar and say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” The apparent irony was that the entire episode was about averting mission failure, as one thing after another went wrong. The point is that they never lost sight of or belief in their ability to complete the mission, and they quickly dealt with any adversity that got in their way.
Why Don’t People Set Goals?
There isn’t one simple answer to this perennial question. The most common reasons are:
- I don’t have time.
- It’s not necessary.
- It’s a waste of time.
- I’m doing fine without goals.
…and many other dismissive excuses. To you I say you’re right, because you’ll never know otherwise.
I believe another reason is fear… fear of failure. Nobody wants to fail, so why risk setting goals? Why set myself up to possibly fail? All I can say to that is, until you face your fears, they control you. And the thrill of succeeding is much better than the fear of failing.
Actually, I don’t have the patience to deal with these excuses, but there is one valid excuse that I’ll gladly help with: “I don’t know how to do it.”
The truth is that you don’t have to do it perfectly — nobody does — and the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. So here are some tips to help clarify and simplify the process for those of you who want to do it but don’t know how.
Since this is a business article, this checklist will lean toward business, but you can modify it for any area of life: personal and family goals, physical goals, educational goals, financial goals, etc.
Goal Execution Plan Terminology
I believe there are too many terms used interchangeably pertaining to goal setting. For the sake of clarity, let’s define some of the terminology for this checklist.
The Mission or Mission Statement is bigger than a goal. It’s states your company’s vision, values, and overriding principles. It has no deadline but rather is something you continually strive to accomplish in everything you do. Use it to check whether your goals and proposed actions are aligned with it.
A goal is specific and time bound. It starts as a wish or a dream, but it should be stated concisely. Clarify what you want to accomplish and by when. It’s okay to dream and wish when contemplating goals… just don’t stop at wishing.
Objectives are subordinate to goals. There may be one or several objectives to be met to achieve a single goal. They may be sequential or simultaneous but, in any event, they are all essential to the overall achievement of the goal. In other words, accomplishing all the objectives achieves the goal.
Steps are the specific actions that must take place to meet objectives. They are most effective when arranged and accomplished sequentially, similar to putting together your kids’ “some assembly required” toys last Christmas.
Targets serve like checkpoints to measure whether you’re on course and on time for accomplishing the objectives. Think of them as the mileposts along the freeway. They help you determine how far you’ve come, where you are now, and how far you have to go. This will guide you in assessing whether you need to modify anything or make other adjustments based on how long it will take to get there.
- Mission Statement — This is your alignment tool.
- Your company’s vision.
- Why you are in business.
- Who benefits from your business and how? Answer for each:
- State your guiding principles — Examples include:
- Customer Satisfaction
- State your values — Examples include:
- ATRA Code of Ethics
- Employing Certified Techs
- Your company’s vision.
- Goal — Begins with wishes and dreams
- What do you want to do?
- When will it be done?
- How will you know when it’s done?
- Describe what successful goal achievement looks like.
- Objectives and Steps — List all essential objectives/changes necessary to achieve goal success. State them clearly for each applicable item and include a time deadline. Insert the first, second, and next steps where applicable. There are no limits to the number of steps.
- Physical facility changes, e.g. building, equipment, appearance, location, etc.
- Service process changes, e.g. scheduling, parts ordering, workflow, etc.
- Financial changes, e.g. pricing, costs, purchasing, benefits, wages, etc
- Technical changes, e.g. quality, productivity, training, certifications, etc.
- Sales process changes — sales tracking, pricing, customer satisfaction, etc.
- Personnel changes — relationships, teambuilding, production capabilities, gaps in service, etc.
- Personal changes I need to make — training, attitude, focus, relationships, etc.
- Other changes
- Establish targets for completion of each step.
- Establish frequency of checking on progress.
- Establish the availability of necessary resources for each step.
- Discuss the goal and execution plan with the team to get them involved and explain why and how it will benefit the company, the customers, and them.
- Discuss the goal and execution plan with the team to get their input regarding any obstacles or barriers to accomplishing the plan. They will likely see things you don’t.
- Involve the team in the process of how to accomplish the goal. Emphasize the “what” and the “why” of the goal and ask for their help with the “how.”
- Continually measure results and make adjustments to the plan as necessary.
- Stay vigilant and anticipate possible setbacks and unplanned consequences.
- Never stop monitoring and adjusting. Remember, planning is everything.
- Finally, celebrate success with your team when you accomplish objectives and ultimately achieve the goal!
As I said earlier, nobody does this perfectly… the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. In his presentation at last year’s Expo, Mark Sanborn commented on the danger of perfectionism. “Most people don’t know the difference between excellence and perfectionism. You’ve probably heard that anything worth doing is worth doing right. Actually, that’s simply not true. Some things are worth doing and getting them done. Some things are worth doing well. Some things are worth doing very, very well. Excellence is the ability to know the difference…”
Don’t get all mucked up trying to do this to perfection. Even the worst possible attempt will yield better results than not trying at all. As Nike says, “Just do it.”
Here’s to making your wishes come true. Have an amazing year.