Monday, November 3, 2014

Looking Forward - First Look Back

I had a number of positive comments regarding Motivation Month over the last few weeks.  If you enjoyed the posts, you will want to be sure to check out the Industrial Solutions LinkedIn page where we provided links to a number of articles and posts that really helped to round out and "fill the gaps" of my own writing.

This month we will focus on Planning and if you are in a mid-size or larger corporation, you have probably been in "planning" mode since sometime in August.  However, no matter when you started your formal planning activities, November seems to typically be the time when leaders get serious about looking ahead into the new year.  No matter what schedule you adhere to in your organization, or even if you don't have a formal process, this month I want to encourage you to do some forward thinking.

I will admit that often the pressure to finish the year on a positive note made thinking about the next year, or the next 3-5 years difficult. Shifting your thinking and engaging in some longer-term planning can be challenging to be sure.

My recommendation is to begin by reviewing your current state.  While looking backward isn't going to help you navigate, and no one drives while focusing solely on the rear view mirror, it is critical to know where you are in order to determine what it will take to get where you want to go.  I love using Goggle Maps on my iphone (sorry, Apple).  Google Maps just works for me. What I like the best is that I never have to indicate where I am currently located.  The app shows me where I am and the best route to get where I want to go.  I see how long it will take, what the route looks like and then I can track my progress spatially on the map, time-wise with the clock, and distance in miles or km.

Begin your planning by first looking at your metrics and asking yourself some questions. How are you doing this year?  Are you on track to meet your objectives? How does this year compare to last year?  Have you made positive progress? How do you know?  Where are the shortfalls in your goals?  Have you made corrections or adjustments this year, and if so, are they making a difference?

Did you just say that you don't have any metrics? Time to establish some. An organization needs to select a number of key measurables that are the most representative for taking the pulse of the organization.  For some the focus will be heavily weighted toward financial results, but be careful here.  The financials are not all that matter in an organization.  You might want to look at efficiency or utilization or new product release schedules.  You might consider employee development or market penetration.  Perhaps your goals included adding new customers or entering new markets. How are you measuring your progress?

I have always found that a current state assessment is of huge benefit when planning for the future.  It tells me how much further to my goals, what progress I have made so far, and what course corrections are necessary to continue my forward progress. In addition, establishing these metrics will be critical to how we manage in the future, so go ahead, pick those metrics, those critical factors and let's get a snapshot of where we are today.

One final thought: I believe this current state - future state thinking has implications for your personal financial goals, your family, marriage, and career development.  Determining where you are today is the first step to envisioning and implementing a plan to get you where you want to be in the future.

Take some time this week to begin collecting this data and we'll talk next about other ways to assess your current state.

Happy Planning!