By: Michele Farquharson, Director of Education
Strategic planning is worthless – unless there is first a strategic vision.
Successful people thrive through structure – the ones that say they don’t are just better at creating that structure for themselves. Structure stems from the vision and goals that drive your company, department, or project. The more clearly defined the vision and goals, the stronger the foundation for a well-structured plan. In my mind there is nothing worse than working on a project that lacks a clear vision. We’ve all been in situations where the vision was vague, unrealistic, or just plain confusing.
Creating a Clear Vision Statement
When creating a vision statement, you are essentially answering the question of what do you want in the long term. Your vision statement provides the foundation for your mission and goals; it is the point around which you align the rest of your planning. Watching these visions come to life is one of the inspiring things about working in an entrepreneurial community such as Betamore. It takes a particular kind of courage and fearlessness to publicize your vision, claim it as your own, and weather the wide range of inevitable feedback.
Mission and Goals
Once you have a clearly defined vision, whether that comes from you or from within your company, the next step is defining the mission and setting the goals. While some companies will set both vision and mission statements, I believe in structuring the mission as a set of goals. This may be the third, fifth, or twentieth time you’ve heard of SMART goals, but it is because they work! I’ve used SMART goals in the classroom, in business, and in my personal life. By SMART I refer to the acronym of Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time sensitive. Contemplating each of these components when setting goals forces you to plan at the early stages.
- You can’t be too specific! When looking at the desired solution your goals are the precise steps you must make in order to successfully complete your project or launch your company. Goals should be detailed and solutions oriented.
- Personally, I find this to be the most important part of setting goals. When goals are measurable it is easier to determine when you are successful. It also enables you to monitor progress and adjust your approach. For a small company, you have to create measures of success so you can accrue more investors, and communicate positively and intelligently with current investors. When working on a project there must be some measurable components to evaluate the impact of each team member. Determining how a goal is measured from the beginning will make the journey towards achieving that goal much more rewarding.
Attainable & Realistic:
I am putting these two together, primarily because I completely left Realistic out of my first draft, and SMAT just doesn’t have the same ring as SMART. But honestly, for a goal to be attainable it has to be realistic and vice versa. When your goal is attainable, there is a possibility you will succeed. I say possibility, because your goals should be challenging! If the goal isn’t challenging enough you and your team aren’t as motivated. At the same time, it’s important to be realistic when goal setting. For example, if I said “I’m going to run a marathon by March of 2015,” this is certainly attainable, but considering my “running” is most people’s “slow jog” it’s not that realistic. I can certainly modify it to a “half marathon by March of 2015” and feel motivated to take on the challenge. While you want to challenge yourself and your team, you do not want to avoid becoming overwhelmed and discouraged. If something is too difficult or too easy, you and your team won’t be as motivated. Attainable and Realistic go together because you have to find a balance where you and your team feel challenged and motivated to succeed.
- Setting a timeframe is easily one of the most misused components of goal setting. We see politicians fall prey to the timeline on a regular basis. It is important to set a timeline that gives you enough time to achieve your goals, while also providing a finite end. Things end people! If you set a timeline and then you get to that finish line and you haven’t been successful, it’s not the end of the world. It is simply time to re-evaluate, strategize, and set new goals. Pushing the timeline back, or not setting a timeline at all indicates a lack of accountability. Having a clear understanding of your time frame, such as these things need to happen before the money runs out, will greatly affect the quality of your vision and goals. When approaching this portion of goal setting I find it helpful to have a clear picture of what resources are available. Access to resources affect this portion of goal setting more than any other, and without a clear picture you can find yourself over reaching or not shooting high enough and missing out on opportunities.
But that’s so much work…
Yes, it is. If something is worthwhile, it is going to take work. By taking the time to create a clear vision and results-oriented goals you lay the foundation for a successful project or business plan. If you rush this process it will become more difficult to align your activities and day-to-day plans towards your long-term vision and goals. Things will inevitably go wrong, but having a clear vision and well defined goals will make adjusting that much easier.