Richard Martin on Selecting Your Objectives for 2013
November 29, 2012
Last month I wrote about one of the two fundamental principles that underlie all other principles of business battle: following the path of least resistance. The other is selection and maintenance of the aim or, simply, the principle of the objective. I've described this in great detail in my book, Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles, but I'd like to give you a summary of this principle and include some tips about using it to frame your own objectives for 2013 and beyond.
Objectives are essential because they force us to concentrate on the direction and outcomes of all of our actions. This is as crucial in business as it is in war, politics, economics and personal life. Without objectives, we squander valuable resources, including money, time, alliances, friendships, family support, and most important of all, opportunities. We can wander aimlessly for a long time without focusing our efforts and concentrating our minds on a set of objectives and definite major purpose.
Everyone and every organization must have objectives at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. They will describe the key outcomes, i.e., what must be achieved, and why these outcomes are needed. Although it is sometimes necessary to include broad parameters for achieving objectives, such as constraints (musts) and restraints (must nots), it is generally better to not specify the 'how' too closely. This provides an incentive and the freedom of manoeuvre to our teams and organizations, and also to us, to come up with the best options for implementation as the situation warrants and conditions evolve. If our plans are too restrictive, this will prevent initiative and we can fall prey to rapid changes as clients, suppliers, competitors, and other stakeholders' needs, beliefs, and goals evolve in response to our actions.
If you haven't done so already, now is the time to step up and decide what you want to achieve individually and organizationally in 2013 and beyond. Start at strategic level and work through the operational and tactical levels. Look at what you want to achieve in terms of outputs and outcomes, but also in terms of inputs, of what you need to change in your behavior, values, and beliefs in order to maximize the chances of success.
The following questions are meant to guide you in formulating your strategic, operational, and tactical goals for the next year. They are extracted from chapter 4 of Brilliant Manoeuvres, and you can answer them by following the questions on pages 24 to 33 in the Brilliant Manoeuvres Study Guide that you can download from my book page on my website.
* What is your ultimate vision and objective?
* What would be the best way to achieve this vision or goal?
* Do you have the means to achieve this objective in the manner you've defined?
* Do you need to change the way you intend to achieve your objective? If so, would this lead to the attainment of your goal or vision?
* Do you need to break up your ultimate vision into sub-goals and to sequence these over time?
* What mission would allow you to realize that vision or end state?
* What is your broad intent in that regard, such as your positioning and posture (offensive or defensive)?
* Do you wish your products and services to be highly differentiated, constantly innovating to stay ahead of the pack, or do you prefer instead to be the cost leader?
* Are you seeking to defend your position, or to go on the attack to overtake your competitors by staking out your position in virgin territory?
* What is the broad scheme of manoeuvre and concept of operations that will transform your vision into action and results? How does this translate into a functioning business model that can succeed over time and that supports your mission?
* What resources are required? Who will execute the plan and what roles are they expected to play?
? What specific tasks and responsibilities are required of the subordinate elements and leaders in your organization?
* How do these tasks fit together and how are they sequenced in time and space to produce the effects you're seeking?
I can't guarantee success if you answer these questions, as there are simply too many factors and imponderables that can impinge on your goals. However, I can guarantee what will happen if you don't set any objectives and plan for their achievement: stasis or, worst, decline. Nothing stays put in the world and if you're not moving, someone else is and will overtake you.
Find the time between now and the end of the year to ponder these things and to set your goals for 2013. Create your outline plans that will get you to your objectives. Assign responsibilities to your team members and work with collaborators to determine how to best apportion roles and resources. Better yet, read Brilliant Manoeuvres and follow along with the downloadable Study Guide on my book page so that you can win your business battles in 2013 and beyond.
Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk
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