Your Crystal Ball for 2010?
Holly G. Green
2009 is almost
over, and wow, what a year:
declared bankruptcy, despite the government paying upwards of $2
billion for old cars in the “cash for clunkers deal.” Huge banks
readily accepted billions of dollars in government bailouts while
individual mortgage holders continued to lose their homes. The
economists kept insisting the recession was over, although one of
every 10 Americans still didn’t have a job. And to top it all off,
we still don’t have a national health care plan that everyone can
In a world where
seemingly anything is possible, how can we know what lies ahead in
2010? For most people, attempting to peer into the crystal ball is a
fun but meaningless exercise. But for those who have bottom-line
responsibilities, having at least some ability to anticipate and
plan for the future is a business imperative. In days gone by,
strategic planners typically looked five to ten years out. These
days, it’s difficult to predict with much accuracy what will happen
even 18 months out. What you can do as a business leader is
strive to gain some clarity around where to focus your time,
attention and resources in order to maximize your chances of success
over the next 12 months.
To obtain this
much-needed clarity, start by asking questions in four key areas:
Attempting to make sense of the future begins with identifying
your destination. Ask yourself two questions: Where are we going in
the next 12 months? What does it look like when we get there?
questions allows you to define what winning (or excellence) means
for your organization. Get very clear on your definition of
winning, and make sure everyone understands what you mean. And
don’t limit the language to strictly financial terms such as
revenue, margins or profitability. By themselves, these measures
mean very little to most employees. Instead, supplement your
operating goals by defining other elements of your destination, such
knowledge and abilities you want in your organization
organizational structures, processes and programs that will
serve you best
systems and technology needed to get the job done
currently on the market and in development
customer will be and how many you will have
competitors will be and what types of companies you will be
competing against when you reach your desired destination
How you will
be known by your market and the public at large
your brand represent
What type of
corporate culture will exist, including the attitudes and
beliefs of everyone involved
After you get
clear on your destination, compare it to current reality and
identify any gaps that need to be addressed. This provides the
information you need to plan and execute. Then create a picture of
your destination and constantly communicate it to employees. You
will be amazed at how others will respond and align when they have a
clear definition of where they’re going.
Once you know where you’re going, take a look at why you’re doing
it. Ask three specific questions:
going on in my sector or industry, with my competitors and with
possible with my products, services or clients, currently and in
the coming months?
this information, why do we exist? What is the reason for our
company or our team?
answers will transcend the mundane and describe some noble purpose
that is both inspirational and aspirational, one that instills pride
in all those connected with the organization. If not, you may want
to reconsider why you exist as an organization.
These define in a general way how you will behave with each other on
the journey to your destination. Ask:
and principles should direct our decisions and actions?
of behavior are acceptable within this organization?
of behaviors are not acceptable?
How do we
want stakeholders outside the organization to think about us and
act towards us?
guiding principles describe how you will behave when faced with
difficult situations or challenges. As many companies learned the
hard way, how you act during a crisis speaks volumes about who you
Now more than
ever, it is critical to understand the value your organization
brings to customers or clients. And not just customers, but all of
your stakeholders. For example:
customers expect from you (and are they getting it)?
their needs and expectations changed over the past year?
employees come to work for your organization?
What kind of
return can shareholders expect?
your community benefit from the work you do?
stakeholder group, get clear on what’s in it for them when they
engage with you or your product and make sure you deliver
By now you
should have the information necessary to define your areas of focus
and begin devising strategies to get where you want to go. Strive
to limit your strategic initiatives to a maximum of five, because if
you have more than five, you don’t really have any at all. Then
comes the hard part -- following through and implementing those
strategies. But your task will be made much easier by the time
invested upfront to answer these questions.
2010 will be
here before we know it. So set aside some time in the days ahead to
get together with your management team and start gazing into that
crystal ball. Carving out the time to grapple with these important
issue may prove to be a challenge. But in the coming year, nothing
will increase your chances for success like taking the time to ‘slow
down in order to go fast.’
Read other articles and learn more about
Holly G. Green.
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