Achieving growth, change, and success without a plan is a blessing. And these blessings lead many to believe they don't need a plan. Said folks may even believe they are smarter than most and didn't have a plan in the first place.
For the rest of us, achieving growth, change, and success over and over again in a predictable, repeatable manner that consumers and shareholders can bank on requires a plan.
In our personal lives, we refer to this structure as goals and plans. In companies, we tend to state things in the form of strategic objectives and roadmaps.
When we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, they often (understandably) have no idea, let alone what it will take to get there. Yet, they are exploring and dreaming – limited only by their imagination (Figure 1 below).
When we ask young adults how far they want to go in the sport of their choice. They often state, "We want to win it all." And they go on the journey with an idea of a plan (the season schedule), objectives (win all of the time), and a goal (be the best). They may not understand everything necessary to get there, but they are on the road to understanding. Experience helps. These young adults are only limited by their will to win and dedication to the journey.
We ask professionals in organizations about their personal and professional goals and the answers are often crystallized into promotions, higher salary, more responsibility, bonuses, achieving professional certifications, and recognition. These folks often understand goals are composed of one or more objectives that require tasks to achieve them and are limited only by time, opportunity, and a plan. Experience breeds wisdom.
Now consider companies themselves. Do they have strategic objectives for the coming year or years? Are there roadmaps spanning the organization that help the company achieve those objectives?
If there are strategic objectives, does everyone in the company know what they are? Should they? And if there are roadmaps, do they map to fulfilling the corporate objectives? Do all of the team members know how their projects relate to the roadmap which leads to achieving the strategic objectives?
Not having strategic objectives and a roadmap is one class of problem.
Have objectives and roadmaps without general population knowledge and understanding of what they are, what they mean, and how we're all getting there together? Different class of problem to solve.
Can you imagine a company that has no clear objectives, no roadmap, has experienced intermittent growth, change, and success without a plan and believes working hard and being busy is actually the plan?
Ask any adult their plans for a holiday. They will most likely tell you exactly when it starts, where they are going, how they will get there, what they plan to do with a timeline, when they start for home, when they will be back at work, and generally how much the whole endeavor will cost.
We need to see the same attention to detail incorporate strategic objective setting, roadmaps, and projects.
In Chapter 6 of "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" by Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge (pseudonym, Lewis Carroll), the Cat makes this point very clearly.
Whether we discuss children, young adults, professionals or corporations, the journey will require much of us – including money. Most people are happy to spend money on children, young adults, and ourselves in pursuit of goals. And most folks are happy to spend their company's money as well.
If this were your company and your money, how would you feel about the company and people spending your money without clear strategic objectives and a roadmap to get there?