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Adaptive Company Goals: Negotiating Dreams with Reality

Think of orga­ni­za­tion­al goal set­ting as ask­ing the mar­ket for a raise. Some of us are hap­py with a cost-of-liv­ing raise. Oth­ers imag­ine what things would be like if all your wildest dreams come true. But we’re too-often stuck in the mode of try­ing to mar­gin­al­ly improve things. Anoth­er 5% increase in prof­its and we’ll be okay.

I’m here to tell you how to use dreams to define goals and process­es that will pull you for­ward.

Dreaming Makes you Unfocused”

Seri­ous busi­ness peo­ple can’t slow down enough to do any real imag­in­gin. We have to con­stant­ly be in motion. We need to act today to get what we need. There are emergencies—fires to put out. It would be height of irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty to stop and think about the future, even if some­thing inside of us tells us that think­ing ahead is pre­cise­ly the rem­e­dy for all of my day-to-day involve­ment in things.

So it isn’t dream­ing that makes com­pa­nies unfo­cused, but it’s the fail­ure to turn those dreams into action­able steps.

Failure to Dream is a Lack of Discipline

We have a solu­tion-mind­ed cul­ture. This is the real prob­lem. We’re addict­ed to solv­ing prob­lems, so much so that we often for­get to under­stand the prob­lem. Rather than cre­at­ing mean­ing­ful action, this cre­ates cul­tures of activ­i­ty Here’s what it looks like:

  • Man­agers use research and data to defend aver­age deci­sions, when they could be mak­ing bold, strat­e­gy-based deci­sions, and then using data—well-understood data—to help shape our strat­e­gy.
  • Check­ing emails to find things to do, because we don’t have a mean­ing­ful, for­ward-mov­ing activ­i­ty that will move us for­ward sub­stan­tial­ly.
  • A cul­ture that lacks belief in its abil­i­ty to take respon­si­bil­i­ty to move things for­ward in a belief that its efforts will cre­ate vic­to­ries for both indi­vid­u­als and the orga­ni­za­tion.

The Solution: Dynamic Goal Setting

Goal set­ting doesn’t work when it doesn’t con­nect to actions. It needs to con­nect today’s efforts to larg­er goals. So when we set goals, we can set them pret­ty lofti­ly. Don’t try to cri­tique your­self too much. Be naïve. Don’t wor­ry; you won’t stay naive for long.

Then, push back. Do a finan­cial cal­cu­la­tion that tests those big, lofty goals. This takes you one of two places: You either adjust your long-term goals a lit­tle bit or you do the coura­geous thing: you ask your­self what’s get­ting in the way, so you can get to solu­tions.

For Example

For exam­ple, let’s say you’re a con­sul­tan­cy, and you want to make $1.5M over 3 years (your naive goal). But by today’s num­bers, your fore­cast is maybe $400k over that same amount of time, which isn’t even a third of the goal. You could deal with this in two ways: either adjust the 3-year num­ber to match today’s num­bers, with mar­gin­al improve­ments, or explore the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

You might decide that the prob­lem is capac­i­ty; you don’t have enough time in the day to do all that work. All of a sud­den, you’re iden­ti­fy­ing the prob­lem. Now, you can find ways to increase capac­i­ty: do I hire con­trac­tors to cre­ate scal­a­bil­i­ty? How will I con­trol qual­i­ty? A train­ing pro­gram and coach­ing?

So when you’re mak­ing a strate­gic plan, bor­row from nego­ti­a­tion tech­niques: try to make a high ini­tial offer, just like when you’re buy­ing a car. Then chal­lenge that num­ber and help your­self get to a place where your dreams and real­i­ty can find com­mon ground in real­i­ty.

Take the Time to Plan Adaptively

This process takes time, but you can do it your­self by carv­ing out strat­e­gy time and using some think­ing and plan­ning tech­niques and dis­ci­plines that great lead­ers use. Mind maps, the SWOT analy­sis and employ­ee inven­to­ry.

And if you’d like to accel­er­ate this process, I’d like to help. Con­tact me to find out if I can help you do this your­self, while help­ing you along the way.