In Change, Leaders

“ ‘I must do something’ will always solve more problems than ‘Something must be done’. “ – Anonymous

Last week in this space the topic was the fact that people talk a good game about change, but they’re not really honest about it. I’d like to say that this week’s topic will be wildly different because now suddenly everyone is taking action to make change happen. But they aren’t, so it won’t.

I work with a number of great organizations. I’m talking about organizations that provide terrific value to their customers, are great places to work, are constantly innovating, who don’t rest on previous accomplishments. They’re the kinds of organizations that books are written about, or magazines publish articles about, and their successes seem to come one after another after another.

These organizations have a number of things in common that separate them from the rest of the world. One that’s really stood out recently is that they don’t just vaguely talk about the need to do something. They don’t throw out broad, unmeasurable ideas and say “Here’s our vision”. Without exception, they commit to specific, measurable goals and specific, measurable actions to make those goals happen.

That sounds pretty simple, and it is. Most great successes are made up of a whole bunch of simple things done exceptionally well, and this is no different. Yet, as simple as it is, the majority of organizations in the world don’t (won’t?) follow their example.

Too many businesses have some kind of a vision or goal that can’t be measured. For example, they say “Our vision is to grow”. What does that mean? If ten years from now you’ve grown by $1, is that enough? And grow what? Sales? Profit? Number of customers? Number of employees? It sounds great to say they want to grow, but when it comes down to what exactly that means, they don’t put any meat on it.

Some organizations get the specific, measurable goals part right but then blow the execution. They say “Our vision is to double in size over the next 5 years”, but then they have no specific action plan to get them there. They might go as far as saying something like “We need to improve our marketing” or “We need to develop some new products” but that’s as far as it goes.

The root of most of this is that people don’t want to be held accountable to something. There are all kinds of reasons why, but what it boils down to is people don’t want to have something specific to be held accountable for because it might mean lots of work and they might fail. And most people don’t want either of those things.

Think about your business, or your personal life. Do you have a specific, measurable picture of what you want things to look like? Do you have a plan for getting there that includes specific, measurable actions? If not, you’re kidding yourself about success.

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