It took me four years to realize that my strategic plan to get to Alaska wasn’t working. I was driving around the same block in Omaha and feeling good about it!
My first job included a weeklong, five year planning retreat. The retreat was a heady moment, filled with excitement and potential. We could see the distant Big Hairy Audacious Goal (Jim Collins). What could be easier than driving the organization to our dream destination?
The dream required a growth rate of 10% per year for five years but that seemed so easy that it was a pity to wait five years. A group of 50 students could certainly grow towards 55 in the 2nd year and 61 in the third. It failed. A strategic plan requires a lot of effort and most plans end up in dusty notebooks.
A growth mindset has to work an hour today to arrive at tomorrow’s destination.
Shannon Susko says that the point of failure in strategic planning is not the dream of the great future. Success is finding a GPS that connects one year destinations to a three year destination. Connecting the one year and three year drives you steadily on the highway of growth and success. She says that flawless execution at the one year level only is like driving the car around the block. You get to feel successful without going anywhere.
I was great at driving the car around the block, creative with the long range plan, and a miserable failure at driving my car towards a 3 year future on the way to the incredible future.
Everyone in my current nonprofit stops for 15 minutes every day to have a huddle. We commit to an hour every day to work on our three year objective. The huddle is to report on what we accomplished yesterday in our hour, how we will use our hour today, and a request for help if we’re stuck. Verne Harnish describes this in Scaling Up.
We still get flat tires and occasionally aim for Minneapolis when we were planning for Alaska. But I can already see Anchorage!
Collins, Jim, and Morten T. Hansen. Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck: Why Some Thrive despite Them All. Random House Business, 2011.
Harnish, Verne. Scaling up: How a Few Companies Make It … and Why the Rest Don’t. Gazelles Inc., 2015.
Susko, Shannon. The Metronome Effect The Journey to Predictable Profit. Advantage Media Group, 2014.
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