Knowing Where You’re Going (and how best to get there)
In the 1980s and 1990s when airlines found they had a lot of wasteful empty seats on some flights, you could show up at an airport with your suitcase packed and get a bargain ticket to whichever destination had failed to sell out. It even led to the birth of UK-based website lastminute.com for the footloose and fancy-free.
Showing up at the last minute and winging it can be fun, and is lauded in song lyrics from The Beatles’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ to Talking Heads’ ‘Road to Nowhere’…but it’s not a great strategy for running a successful, growing business.
You and your team need to know where the company is going, and why. Here are 4 ways to make sure everyone is on the same page (literally, when it comes to creating a strategic plan), and heading in the right direction.
Remind yourself why you do what you do
Everyone knows the feeling of being so lost in the day to day of business that they forget why they come to work each day, not seeing the forest for the trees (which seem to grow taller each day).
But a 2015 report by the Harvard Business Review found that only 46% of executives they surveyed thought that their core purpose informed their strategic and operational decision making (although 90% said they understood the importance of a core purpose). If your goals aren’t front and center it’s easy to forget what they are, and yet it clearly pays to keep the big picture in mind:
“…in those organizations where purpose had become a driver of strategy and decision-making, executives reported a greater ability to deliver revenue growth and drive successful innovation and ongoing transformation.”
Make it clear to everyone in your organization where you’re headed, and how you’re going to get there
If you’ve ever wanted to join the elite group of people who have scaled Everest, you (hopefully) wouldn’t load up a backpack and set off without having a clear idea of the steps you were going to take to get there (including, apparently, working out for up to three years ).
The same goes for your business: to achieve your core purpose, you need a strategy your entire team has access to, from long term goals to the steps you’ll take and the milestones you’ll reach on the way. Like climbing Everest, you’ll want to check in with that strategy regularly to make sure the prevailing winds haven’t changed (metaphorically, if not literally).
Review your priorities regularly
Pilots have a rule of thumb called the 1 in 60 rule which states that if you have flown 60 miles and missed your target by one mile, your course was off by 1 degree. This concept highlights the importance of heading in the right direction, and constantly reviewing your course – that 1 degree would have you almost 500 miles off course when traveling around the equator, and 4,000 miles off if headed to the moon. (Given that the moon is a little over 2,000 miles in diameter, this is the literal definition of missing your moonshot).
Having priorities and metrics, and checking in on them regularly, is not only essential to moving your company forward, it is vital to staying efficient by making sure they are taking you in the right direction.
Does your team know how their work connects to the bigger picture?
The semi-mythical Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu famously said: A journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step. Big goals can feel far off and intangible: having a clear connection between short-term projects and long-term goals is essential for keeping workers engaged and motivated.
If you ever had the feeling your company was going in circles, missing opportunities or wasting time, money and energy, it may well have been because your destination was unclear. Great journeys require having a plan, setting off in the right direction, and adjusting regularly – and your business journey is no different.