January is that time of year where many organizational and individual leaders trot out new goals to advance their businesses and themselves. Their process of setting these goals can be simplified down to basically two steps. Step one: identify the goal itself. Step two: identify the action steps to accomplish the goal. If there were a third step it would most likely look like: hope it works! Sad, but true, in far too many cases.
Rarely do I ask a prospect or new client what their goals are first. What I ask first is what their goal planning process is to achieve their goals. This question, which rarely gets a confident and definitive answer, is much more foundational to success than what the actual goals are. Without a process, the goals themselves mean nothing!
Because goals are top-of-mind this time of year, I would propose components of a goal planning process that directly address Leonardo da Vinci’s quote in the title of this post. How do business leaders identify the potential obstacles to success and create solutions and actions to ensure successful achievement of any goal they set in front of themselves and their teams?
Creating a WAY-SMART Goal will always be the first step in any goal planning process. However, identifying action steps to achieve the goal is actually Step 6, not Step 2 as portrayed earlier. The steps between one and six are crucial to applying the right level of rigor to the goal all but guaranteeing successful achievement!
- Step 2 ~ Identify the rewards for achieving the goal, both tangible and intangible? Are the rewards motivating enough to put the level of vigor into achieving the goal? If not, ditch the goal and move on!
- Step 3 ~ Identify the consequences of not achieving the goal, both tangible and intangible? Are the consequences dire enough to motivate the level of rigor necessary to achieve the goal? If not, ditch the goal and move on. Collectively, these two steps constitute “Why’ the goal is important in the first place!
- Step 4 ~ Identify all the potential obstacles that would prevent successful achievement of the goal. There are the usual suspects like time, money, attitudes (yes, attitudes can be obstacles) and other tangible resources. Dig deep and identify them all so the necessary rigor will be fully understood. As an aside, if you can only identify one obstacle to a goal that you’ve not yet accomplished, I would suggest you don’t fully understand the business you are in.
- Step 5 ~ Identify possible solutions to every potential obstacle identified in Step 4. With the assumption that the original goal is, in fact, a WAY-SMART Goal, every obstacle can be overcome. I have always believed this and still do. Yes, some solutions require more rigor and possibly outside-the-box thinking, but all obstacles can be overcome. Half the battle is believing every obstacle can be overcome!
Now we get to Step 6 and the action steps required to achieve the goal. If we think of the possible solutions as what is needed to overcome the obstacles, the actions steps become how that will be achieved. If more obstacles arise while the goal is in progress, go back to Step 4 and create new solutions and action steps to address the new obstacle.
While rigor and disciplined actions are required to achieve goals, they should not be wasted on poor goal planning. Think of the time and effort required to overcome an obstacle re-actively versus how much time and effort with a pre-planned solution proactively. I would suggest, based on my own experience, it takes three to five times more time and effort to react than to plan. Now think of what an efficient goal planning process can do for you and your business this year!
What level of rigor are you prepared to leverage as you lead your organization?