Having a defined objective for what you are trying to achieve is one of the most powerful things you can do to change your business. The right objective with the right focus will give you a laser-like focus on what needs to be done – and that focus pretty much guarantees you achieve whatever it is you set out to achieve.
Why does having an objective make a difference?
In our daily lives, there are constant diversions, interruptions and demands that knock us off whatever it is we’re planning to achieve. We may well start out a day with a clear view of whatever it is we’re going to achieve, but the reality is that at the end of the day if you ask yourself if you achieved what it was you set out to achieve, in the majority of cases you would have to answer no.
One of the big problems we all face is a demand to do things that at the time appear both urgent and important. What you need is some sort of high level objective that sits above everything else and guides you to make the best use of your time. A ruler if you like to test just how urgent and how important is this specific demand on your time.
This is where your big objective comes in. It’s a clear statement of direction you need to keep at the top of your mind at all times and that is your guide as to how best to spend your time. Maybe you write it on a card and keep it in front of you. Maybe you put it on your screensaver. Maybe you just keep it with you and look at it several times a day. Whatever you do, you need to find a way of keeping your big objective right in front of you all the time.
Suddenly you’ll find you have a much greater sense of purpose. With your big objective right at the top of your mind, you will make better choices about how to spend your time, and you will make better requests of your colleagues. Most of all – you will focus on the things that will make a real difference and tend to drop the nice to have or frankly irrelevant activities that try to bog everybody down.
Everybody needs to buy in
When you are deciding on your big objective, you can’t decide it on your own. You need the buy in and active support of everybody around you who might influence the likelihood of success. That will include colleagues for certain, and quite possibly your suppliers and anybody else who contributes to the success of the business. With everybody pulling in the same direction to the same outcome you will be amazed how much gets achieved and how quickly.
Planning is guessing
Don’t ever forget that planning is guessing. So say Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson in their brilliant book “Rework – Change the way you work forever”. (Hint: Get yourself a copy – it’ll change your thinking!)
Check this out from their book:
Unless you’re a fortune teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy. There are just too many factors that are out of your hands: market conditions, competitors, customers, the economy, etc. Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control.
Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses. Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses, and your strategic plans as strategic guesses. Now you can stop worrying about them as much. They just aren’t worth the stress.
Objectives are about knowing where you’re going
Hear me. I’m not saying build a detailed financial plan. I am saying name a number and a timeframe that’s reasonable and then GO FOR IT.
You wouldn’t get in your car to drive just “somewhere”, because you’d have no idea in which direction to head. But if I say to you, get in your car and drive to this specific location, you’ll get there. Exactly the same with objectives.
The only important financial question you need to think about is “Will we make money doing this and when?” Assuming you can write down a good answer, you’re good to go.
Is it SMART?
As you create your objective, remember to make sure it passes the test of being a SMART objective.
- Is it specific – will you know when you’ve achieved it? If it’s a number, it’s specific.
- Is it measurable? If it’s a number, it’s measurable.
- Is it achievable? That’s for you to say – but remember to make it challenging as well as achievable.
- Is it resourced? It’s pointless to have an objective that you can’t achieve because you don’t have some critical element to make it happen.
- Is it timed? That’s why I’m asking you to come up with a number and a date. The combination makes sure your objective is timed. In this context, don’t fall into the trap of setting an objective a way out. If you say you’ll do something in a year’s time, it’s too nebulous to affect your day-to-day thinking. You want an objective that’s smaller, but closer. In the context we’re working here, I’d suggest a three month objective is optimal.
Taking this thinking, you might come up with an objective like “We will make sales to the value of $25,000 of this product to these customers in the three months ending 31st March”. That has all the elements you need to make it real, and that’s an objective you can share with all your colleagues.
Think about your big objective at least every day, preferably several times a day. You also need to ensure everybody else involved in making sure the objective is met thinks about it just as much as you do.
It doesn’t hurt at all to have frequent reviews of progress towards the objective to show there is real progress and to keep everybody firmly behind the objective. Of course if there isn’t progress, frequent reviews will bring this to light rapidly and provide the platform to think about and discuss why not and what needs to change for progress to be made.
In short, setting timed, numeric, relatively short-term objectives and then working relentlessly towards them is one of the most powerful things you can do to ensure the success of your business.
Here’s what to do next
If you’re interested in how this could help you, or feel I may be able to help you with some of the challenges you’re facing, please get in touch for an informal discussion.
There’s no commitment, we’ll just discuss your situation to see if working together might be a good fit. Contact me now.