Adaptive Company Goals: Negotiating Dreams with Reality

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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.