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Your 2015 goals are 100% useless. The likelihood of you accomplishing – or even working toward them – is about 20%. If you’re in the 80%, just go ahead and pitch ‘em.

Let me backpedal a little. I’ve written several strategic plans for clients over the past few weeks in preparation for their coming year. I’d feel unethical about charging the clients for my work if I really thought planning was a useless exercise. But it’s amazing to me how quickly the end-of-year planning document gets dusty. Even those of us who acknowledge this fact still fall into the trap. I’ve done it (several times…) too in my young companies!

As Jason Fried explained in the 37signals’ book Rework:

“What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.”

It almost goes without saying but I decided to state the obvious because I’ve heard clients say things like “Next year we want achieve better quality.” Or, “In 2015, we’re going to become one of the biggest in the market.” They might as well be saying, “Our plan for 2015 is to maintain the status quo… but we could change, if we had to, maybe.”

The central reason I think we don’t follow through on our good intentions? Vagueness. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to start out with vagueness. Identify that you want to improve quality or get in front of more customers. But that vague strategy isn’t enough – get specific goals or don’t bother.

As Godin points out in a recent post:

“The problem with plans created by committees is that they are built on vague. That’s because vague is safe, and no one ever got in trouble for failing to meet a vague plan. But vague is singularly unhelpful when it’s time to make a hard decision.”

So here on some tangible suggestions on how to do a better job in 2015 in terms of using your strategic plan.

– Rather than thinking big picture (such as mission statement to strategy to goals), have a mind-mapping session where you start with goals and work your way back up. You’ll probably find that very small tasks fit into the bigger picture. And if, at the end of your extensive list, you find some that don’t really fit within the organizational mission or objectives, then cut them – but go ahead and start bottom up.

– Make some sort of graphic to publicly display in your work environment (virtual or physical). If you have trouble creating visual milestones, your new project or process probably isn’t tangible enough or measurable.

– Organizations look remarkably like their managers, so if you have a tactic for helping yourself meet personal goals (like weight loss), try to implement similar tactics in the business environment, too. Find ways to keep coworkers accountable to their own goals.

– Too many organizations fail to do basic team reviews. An employee review is a great time to identify two things: 1) individual faults to work on in the coming year and 2) passions of the employee that would help the development of the company.

– Don’t dream too big, and don’t expect too much. Just like setting an unattainable weight-loss goal, I’ve heard far too many clients basically say they’re going to take over the world with their project/product. Don’t be unrealistic. How about figuring out what you absolutely need to survive/succeed and mark it up by about 10%.

– Hold goals lightly. You will find new ideas.

What’s your tactic for utilizing your plans and keeping to your goals? Please comment below. Have a Happy New Year – may it be a prosperous year!