How do you look at your long term vision, 15 – 25 years out, and determine what you do today to make sure you get there in 25 years? It’s a good question – one that has three components to the answer:
- Knowing what to do today
- Staying motivated over the long haul
- Knowing that what you are doing is working
For each of the next several blog posts, we will tackle one component with the hope that at the end, you have a better handle on what you need to do today to move toward where you want to be in the future, and you are motivated to get it done.
The first component: how do you know what to do today to make sure you are headed toward the vision you set for 25 years down the road? The answer comes by taking several steps, narrowing your focus at each. Start with the biggest picture, your long-term vision, and begin to scale back. If you haven’t already, clearly define your vision for the future. What is your 15-25 year goal? Don’t just say “we are a $25 million organization”. Instead define what you are doing, who are your customers, what do your facilities look like, how many staff members do you have, what do your customers say about your products, what does the community say about your organization. The more clearly you describe your answers, the more clearly you can define your vision and therefore, the easier it will be to scale it down to what you need to do today.
Got your long-term vision? Now bring down the focus from this big picture vision to a small handful of strategic projects. How, specifically, are you going to get to that vision? Do you need to improve the technology around your current product offerings? Do you need more sales staff to expand into an overseas market? Do you need additional product offerings to appeal to a broader market? This step takes some research on the environment surrounding your organization. What are the strategies that are most likely to succeed in this environment that move you toward your vision. It is the step where you take the dream of the vision into the reality of the world you operate in, and identify your big steps along the path.
Got the projects defined? Tighten the focus a bit more. What do you want to accomplish on each of the strategic projects this year? What is a one-year target for each? Once you identify the targets, tighten the focus still more: what must you accomplish each quarter of the year to assure you will reach these year end targets? This is the point in our Vision Navigation® planning process that we assign accountability – a critical step. From the big-picture vision down through the year-end targets on strategic projects, you are operating on an organization-wide vision. You are moving as a group. When you get down to those quarterly outcomes, though, you need to assign responsibility for each and hold each other accountable to get the work done.
Now the rubber begins to meet the road. Whether it is an organization-wide plan or you have flown solo through the whole process so far, i.e., it is your personal vision, strategic projects, etc., once individual initials are assigned to a quarterly outcome, the expectation is that actual products/work will be delivered each quarter. You are drawing closer to answering the question “what do I do today”. As before, to get there begin by narrowing the focus. But this time there is a slight twist.
Before you focus on the outcome itself and determine the tasks to get it done, ask yourself “how much time can I devote each week to strategic work”. Your day to day responsibilities still need to be done, the car pools still run, the staff meetings still come up each week. How much time, really, can you devote exclusively to working on your vision each week? Don’t shortchange yourself – this is after all, most likely your most important work this week. But don’t over commit either, or you will defeat yourself from the get-go.
Once you have your time determined, take your quarterly task and lay out all the steps to get it accomplished in week-sized chunks, i.e., if you have 8 hours available each week, make sure none of your “chunks” are more than 8 hours worth of work. Now take those tasks and assign each one to a week in the quarter. Final step? Look at this week’s “chunk” or task. Specifically what do you need to do to get it done? Schedule those specific, incremental pieces of this week’s task (i.e., that 8 hours of work) into your calendar. Then look at your calendar. What did you schedule of your week’s task on today’s calendar page? Do that, and know that you are heading toward accomplishing your vision.