Getting lost used to be much easier. One wrong turn and you could lose your way. You might pull over to unfold a faded paper map. Maybe even ask a stranger at a gas station for directions. Now smartphones and GPS have changed the way we navigate. But even the best technology cannot tell you where you want to go.
You still need to know where you are and where you are headed. The same is true for annual planning.
I realize this sounds obvious — every organization needs to know where it is headed. But how many actually do know? Did you have a clear plan for 2017? If not, you likely feel a little aimless today no matter how the year has gone. Maybe even lost.
2018 is fast approaching, so it is time to correct course — to set a clear plan with measurable goals. Start by visualizing your destination and then working backward to identify the key metrics and milestones you need to get there. These will act like signposts, giving you the confidence to know that you are moving in the right direction.
When you set solid goals, you will be proud of where you end up — rather than feeling surprised or disappointed.
As you start thinking about next year, below are a few guidelines to help you plan with purpose. Note that even if you are not setting corporate or product strategy for your organization, these steps can help you organize your thoughts and plan, no matter your role. You can even use them to set your personal strategy for growth if that is something you have considered trying to do.
Here are five steps to setting actionable goals:
1. Revisit your mission
Go back to what you are trying to achieve in the long term. I do not mean the next couple quarters — but rather the next few years. Consider how your organization can make a lasting impact on your customers and employees. How will you change the world?
2. Ask for advice
Talk with your team and others in the company about how the business is progressing and what should happen next. These conversations will help you uncover new opportunities and identify blindness to any potential risks.
3. Be specific
If your goals are vague and complex, it will be difficult for you and your team to make real progress — it is just too easy to argue about priorities when the objectives can be misinterpreted. So keep goals simple and specific to ensure that they will be well understood.
4. Time box
Goals should define what you want to achieve in the next quarter, six months, or year. Remember that dates matter. The time boxes serve as checkpoints to make sure your work is progressing and to adjust when factors change.
5. Write “no”
Go ahead and make a Not-do list. Write down all the good ideas that are not aligned with where you are headed. Then cross them off. It is important for you and the team to be clear on what you will not do so you can stay focused on your destination.
Share the plan with the team to hold yourself and everyone else accountable. That does not mean that you cannot change your direction as you go, but it will force you to reconsider why you need to alter your way.
Here comes 2018 and many of us are quietly looking ahead. We want to make sure that we have the best chance of success and being proud of our work in the coming year. If you follow the simple steps above, you will start your planning with the right mindset to get where you want to be in the coming months.
How do you approach setting new goals?