Looking Back to Get Ahead
I just engaged in the exercise of writing down all the special projects, unique initiatives, new features and accomplishments SSI introduced or recorded during 2009. You know what? It was very enlightening. The process allowed me to take a step back to realize and fully appreciate the totality of the year’s enterprise and achievement. Whether it’s on a company or personal level, I highly recommend you try it out yourself.
On the surface, this would seem like a basic, simple thing to do. And it is once you take the time to do it. However, therein lies the rub. Most of us are so overwhelmingly busy nowadays, tasked with myriad responsibilities and forced to move at a pace that makes it difficult to recall what transpired the previous week let alone 12 months.
In an entrepreneurial industry like ours and given the economic pressures, many business owners and operators are in survival mode just trying to stay afloat. Flying by the seat of their pants, they spend the bulk of their time putting out fires. It’s an environment where fundamental practices like a formalized business plan can go by the wayside.
Today’s harsh realities make being consumed with the here and now completely understandable. In some ways it is also a sensible strategy (if you want to go so far as to call is so) for those who can’t afford to take their eye off the ball — even for a moment — to review, evaluate, adjust and work a plan. The proverbial, not being able to see the forest for the trees, has never been more applicable.
Beyond the difficulties and obstacles the majority of us contend with these days, it’s also important to recognize that you or leadership in your organization may flat out be resistant to such practices regardless of the circumstances. Ego, laziness, denial, intimidation, rationalization, ulterior motives or an absence of business know-how are among dozens of reasons that could be at the root of it.
Regardless, history has taught us that the greatest likelihood of success over the long haul — no matter how nutty and frenetic things may get — comes to those who break free from the madness to reflect, assess, strategize and act. Going with what your gut tells you has its place, but is no way to run a legitimate business in an ultra-competitive landscape.
My advice is to push everything else aside to get on paper all the creations, conquests, important projects, key deals, sales success, marketing campaigns, etc. that you or your company notched in 2009. Also include efforts that may not have panned out exactly as hoped but are worth acknowledging for their initiative. Highlight all the positives.
When you’re finished, take a good hard look at the list. Chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised, if not shocked, at the quantity and quality of accomplishments. You’ll feel a sense of gratification and perhaps even a rush of pride. This document can also be used to vouch for you and your department’s merits to superiors. And be sure to share the good vibes with those who contributed during the period. Motivation is especially elusive during hard times. Telling someone to be glad they have a job is not enough. It pales in comparison to being recognized, appreciated and valued as part of a collective team.
There is much more to constructing this inventory than simply basking in the glow of past glory. Take yet another step back and examine it in a deeper context to assess which ideas and initiatives could have produced even better results. Consider how profits, cost reductions, efficiencies and effectiveness could have been further optimized.
Pick and choose what’s worth pursuing and enhancing, and what ought to be abandoned. At the same time, look for gaps or holes in the picture that might need filling in. Transfer all this info to a new document, fine tune it and now you have your strategic outline for the year. Then prepare to accomplishment even more great things in 2010.
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