How do you know that the work you are doing is moving you toward your long-term vision, 15-25 years out? It’s a good question – one we have looked at in three sections:
- Knowing what to do today
- Staying motivated over the long haul
- Knowing that what you are doing is working
We covered the first two in previous posts, A Matter of Scale and Staying Motivated to Reach Your Long Term Vision. In this post, we will tackle the remaining component, knowing what you are doing is working.
As you prepared your strategic plan, you defined a long-term, 15-25 year vision. Next, you determined 3-5 strategic projects for the year that will be solid stepping stones moving you toward that vision, with a set of actionable tasks for this year on each of those projects. What lies in between your vision and this year’s tasks is the answer to knowing you are making progress.
The key is to very carefully define a year end target for each of your strategic projects, and in some cases a 2 or 3 year goal. A carefully selected year end target will tell you how far you need to be on this project in 12 months in order to know you are on track for your long-term vision. To develop a good target, slide backwards from your vision.
For example, let’s say your long term vision is to be a 20 million dollar organization with offices throughout the Southeast, and that you have included a social media project on your plan for this year – to delve more deeply into blogs, twitter and LinkedIn. To develop your year-end target for this project, first determine how this project will contribute overall to your long-term vision? What role does social media play? Let’s say your strategy is to attract interested parties to your blog or linked in or twitter who will take an interest in what you have to offer, begin interacting with you and eventually become customers.
Now, slide backwards from your long term vision. How many leads from social media will you need in year 20, year 10 or year 5? Obviously, these are very big approximations at this point. A lot will happen in the social media world as well as pretty much every other arena you operate in over the next 20 years, which is why we don’t recommend setting in stone anything longer than a 3 year goal after you have defined your long term vision. So much will change in your future environment, that a highly prescriptive 10 year target or even 5 year is typically not helpful.
But you can give yourself some good approximations to work backwards from to develop a clearly defined 1 year target for what your work should achieve for you this year. Then at your following year’s strategic planning process revisit the project and the target in terms of what has changed in your environment. Do another slide back from your long term goal, clearly define a new 1 year target and lay out the steps to get there.
Along with the 1 year target, I mentioned above a 2 or 3 year goal. These are valuable for multi-year projects. Say your strategic project is to expand your offices into 3 new states. You may realize that resources would be spread too thin to accomplish the whole project in one year. So you lay out a 1 year and a 3 year target. Perhaps your 1 year target is the regional manager hired, the locations selected in each state and 2 trial sites are operational. Then year three has 3 sites operational in each state. One project, two clear targets that you can track to know you are indeed moving toward your vision.
To know you are making progress, create a clear, specific year-end, and perhaps a multi-year, target for each of your strategic projects, then monitor progress as you move through the year.