Growth Requires A Plan

Achieving growth, change and success without a plan is a blessing. And these blessings lead many to believe they don’t need a plan. Said folks may even believe they are smarter than most and didn’t a plan in the first place.

For the rest of us, achieving growth, change and success over and over again in a predictable, repeatable manner that consumers and shareholders can bank on requires a plan.

In our personal lives we refer to this structure as goals and plans. In companies we tend to state things in the form of strategic objectives and roadmaps.

When we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, they often (understandably) have no idea, let alone what it will take to get there. Yet, they are exploring and dreaming — limited only by their imagination (Figure 1).

When we ask young adults how far they want to go in the sport of their choice. They often state, “We want to win it all.” And they go on the journey with an idea of a plan (the season schedule), objectives (win all of the time) and a goal (be the best). They may not understand everything necessary to get there, but they are on the road to understanding. Experience helps. These young adults are only limited by their will to win and dedication to the journey.

We ask professionals in organizations about their personal and professional goals and the answers are often crystallized into promotions, higher salary, more responsibility, bonuses, achieving professional certifications and recognition. These folks often understand goals are composed of one or more objectives which require tasks to achieve them and are limited only by time, opportunity and a plan. Experience breeds wisdom.

Now consider companies themselves. Do they have strategic objectives for the coming year or years? Are there roadmaps spanning the organization which help the company achieve those objectives?

If there are strategic objectives, does everyone in the company know what they are? Should they? And if there are roadmaps, do they map to fulfilling the corporate objectives? Do all of the team members know how their projects relate to the roadmap which leads to achieving the strategic objectives?

Not having strategic objectives and a roadmap is one class of problem. Have objectives and roadmaps without general population knowledge and understanding of what they are, what they mean and how we’re all getting there together? Different class of problem to solve.

Can you imagine a company that has no clear objectives, no roadmap, has experienced intermittent growth, change and success without a plan and believes working hard and being busy is actually the plan?

Figure 1. “The relationship between age, wisdom, plans and goals.”

Ask any adult their plans for a holiday. They will most likely tell you exactly when it starts, where they are going, how they will get there, what they plan to do with a timeline, when they start for home, when they will be back at work and generally how much the whole endeavor will cost.

We need to see the same attention to detail in corporate strategic objective setting, roadmaps and projects.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge (pseudonym, Lewis Carroll). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London. Macmillan and Co.1865. Chapter 6.

A parting thought: whether we discuss children, young adults, professionals or corporations, the journey will require much of us — including money. Most people are happy to spend money on children, young adults and ourselves in pursuit of goals. And most folks are happy to spend their company’s money as well.

Question: If this were your company and your money, how would you feel about the company and people spending your money without clear strategic objectives and a roadmap to get there?

Author: Matthew D Edwards

President and CEO Trility Consulting