I had the opportunity this week to spend some time working with one of our firm’s best clients as their board worked through the beginning of a long-term planning process. This business has a number of different segments/units; the purpose of this week’s meeting was for the board as a whole to give some overall direction for each segment to adhere to. The process they followed serves as a simple example of how to work through the beginning of the planning process.
We’ve discussed the idea of NOW-WHERE-HOW in this space before as being important to any planning process. You have to understand WHERE you are today before you do anything else – and most organizations do at least a decent job of that. They understand for the most part where they’re at financially, who their customers are, etc. This company was no different. They talked about margins, revenues, customers, staff, etc. Clearly they had a good feel for who they are – good, bad and ugly.
Where this board got it right, and where so many people & businesses get it wrong, is they avoided the temptation to just run out and start fixing stuff. Too many people & businesses miss the WHERE. What is it you’re trying to do? What is it you’re trying to be? What is your intended destination? We are rewarded in our society for accomplishment, so we want to go out right away and accomplish things. But what if the things we accomplish are the wrong things? How can you know what the right things are without working through the WHERE?
The board I was working with asked themselves the question, “How do you define success for the organization?”, or to put it another way, “What kinds of things need to be occurring for you to feel like the organization has been successful?” Each board member briefly shared what their idea of success looked like. The list of items can now be used as a filter – is what I’m working on going to help us to achieve those things? If not, do we really need to be doing it? As each business segment works through their portion of the planning process, those WHERE items will be displayed for everybody to see. It’s a way of saying, “This is why we’re doing this! This is what we’re trying to be!” From here on out it’s all about HOW they can get there.
When you think strategically about your future, do you start by trying to fix things? Or do you take time to work through what success looks like? Ask yourself before doing anything, how do I define success? What kinds of things do I want? Thinking through the WHERE gives a focus and direction that you can’t get otherwise.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Ben Stein: “The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want.” Do you now what you want? Do you know WHERE you want to be?