Have a Reason

The importance of sticking to your goal(s).

Running. Ugh, I know. Even professional marathoners love/hate it. Yesterday, the wind was biting and sunset was just an hour away when I decided to join a local group for my recovery run. 

As we passed block after block, I watched my heartrate, trying to stay in a low zone. That meant slowing down over and over again, frozen fingers and even some walking.

As the group sped ahead, I found myself clutching a tiny printout of the route instructions, hoping I wasn’t too far behind. I found my way up a steep hill and back to the meeting point, the last to arrive. I counted the session a success.

Why? Because despite running as slowly as I ever had, taking walk breaks and forgetting reflective gear, I remembered my plan. 

In my strategic planning projects, I’ve seen the simplest mistake repeated countless times: not having a reason for embarking on a new initiative. Or having, frankly, a terrible reason. If your competitors are doing it, if you read about it somewhere, if someone told you at Thanksgiving you should do it, ugh. That’s like running fast because the group is running fast. 

Should you thus decry all input from consultants, all the sage advice you read in Signs of the Times? No. No. It means you should have an overarching strategy, a guiding goal that you’re working toward. Weigh what you read – here, in Inc., wherever – against your plan. Do only what supports that goal. 

You can have more than one goal, but it’s common for organizations to keep to about three big priorities for the year. You can have multiple projects within each (say, every department has something they contribute). But whether you add digital printing this year, whether you buy that new truck, whether you jump into social media, should first be based on that big goal. (And the goal itself should be leading toward a desired future state that everyone in your shop can articulate.)

No person, no organization is too big or too small for strategy. There’s a big, looming race I want to finish in a few years. I have to avoid injury to get there. If that means running alone in the dark over uneven sidewalks on unfamiliar streets, that’s what I’ll do. At Signs of the Times, we have a vision for who we hope will interact with us, how we know we can contribute. Everything we do feeds into that goal, from day-to-day projects to awards, events and media.

If you’ve got a big goal, email me. I’d love to hear about it.

Signs of the Times May 2019

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