Let’s lay out a scenario and pretend you’re the one caught up in it.
You came into the post-pandemic period hopeful things would get back to something approaching normal and that the business you’d built would at least hold its own. And, with any luck and good execution, you’d be looking at a healthy increase in your bottom line.
The last thing you wanted to do was lay off any valued members of your team or withdraw job offers you’d already made to new graduates. Ugh.
THAT was NOT part of any plan. In your planning, you’d set some optimistic goals.
And that’s normal. When we set goals, they’re always about going after the positive outcomes we want to achieve, not avoiding the negative outcomes that can … and do … come our way.
So, you had certain goals you wanted to reach. You had a plan. You were executing on it. And then, you got some curveballs thrown your way. Business is either flat or down. You don’t need to hire new people. You don’t need to spend money on expansion efforts.
So, what do you do?
You revisit the plan … at the very least. That’s obvious.
But the real question is when do you decide to reassess how realistic and achievable your goals are in light of changing circumstances … and maybe adjust course?
After the first or second quarter of negative economic indicators?
After the first whiff your clients or customers are encountering some tough sledding?
After a couple of quarters of negative GDP numbers in a row, signaling the onset of a technical recession?
After you, yourself, are starting to feel that loss of business from demand drying up or the knock-on effects of your clients seeing demand dwindle?
Setting goals is great. It gives you a tangible objective to shoot for that focuses your energies.
But, if you hadn’t noticed, the whole world has gone kind of crazy. Predictability has gone out the window. In area after area, we sail in uncharted waters.
So, what’s a sailor to do?
Keep a finger to the wind … and course correct sooner rather than later.
You may have heard of Agile. It’s a goal setting and adaptation model that helps keep organizations … well … agile. They stay more flexible around how they get where they want to go and are more able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.
This is in contrast to the goal setting that results from pro forma strategic planning sessions where the goals are captured in a document that sits on a shelf and referred to occasionally. Goals that just sit there aren’t living creations that are actively, continuously tended to … like you’d tend to a garden.
Fluid and adaptable … that’s what you’re shooting for.
One of the ways you become fluid and adaptable is to break your larger goal into shorter term objectives with manageable task bundles that can be accomplished in short sprints … say 2-4 weeks long.
And, as you proceed, you’re constantly aware of what’s changing in the macro and micro environments that could affect your progress, or even make you seriously reconsider your goal … or, on the flip side, open up a door for you to rush through.
You want to have a person or a team dedicated to actively monitoring what’s going on inside and outside the enterprise that could impact your course moving forward.
You’re constantly on the lookout for ways to minimize damage and maximize opportunity. And, at the very least, you want to keep the firm profitable while not having to jettison prized talent.
Maybe a competitor just folded and there’s a new opportunity. Maybe the bank won’t lend you any more money or even wants to call in your existing loan. You have to be able to quickly assess what’s going on and act decisively, not wait around to see how things play out, hoping for the best.
That’s what being agile is all about.
Many of you are undoubtedly familiar with the acronym SMART when it comes to describing what your goals need to look like.
Specific … Measurable … Achievable … Relevant … Time Bound.
I want to add a couple of letters. U and R for Updated Regularly.
Do that and it means URSMART when it comes to goal setting.
You are on top of things … a sailor who can’t easily be blown off course.
The bottom line. Don’t just set it and forget it. Actively navigate.
Speaking of navigation, John Cleese of Monty Python fame, tells the story of Gordon The Guided Missile. He makes the point that a guided missile is never exactly on course to hit its target until it actually hits it. It’s always somewhat off course, receiving continuous feedback telling it to steer this way or that.
His point? Don’t assume you’re locked onto the target and all you have to do is keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll reach your goal.
Stay alert to feedback and be ready to course correct at a moment’s notice. It may be a small correction or a more major one that’s required at any given time, but if you deal with the small ones in a timely fashion, you’re less likely to have to undertake the major ones.
In closing, let me say I have faith you’ll have no problem staying completely on top of things and know you WILL accomplish your goals.
Because UR agile and really SMART.
Barbara is proud to serve as facilitator to ALA’s inaugural Executive Leadership Summit to be held in beautiful San Diego September 28-30, 2023. Click here to learn more and register.