Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thinking about 2009

written by Kevin Kragenbrink

Wow, it is hard to imagine that 2008 is almost at its end. It has been an incredible year. An economy in turmoil, a presidential election of historic proportions, and a greater degree of uncertainty than I have seen in the business community in more than a decade of business coaching. Despite all of that, I am optimistic about next year. I have a plan in place that I think will help me reach new heights with my business. Speaking of plans, I wanted to talk with you all about how you are developing yours for next year.

Here is a planning principle I hope all of you have in mind.

Plan from the Vision Back

Over the years we have helped hundreds of businesses develop strategic business plans. Along the way we have seen some of those plans produce tremendous success and some of them fall far short. The difference between success and failure is often where the plan starts.

In my experience, the most successful strategic plans start with the vision and plan backward from there. Those that fail are most often those that start with what happened in the past and try to build on that alone. Here is the problem, if your plan is based only upon what has happened, you are always limited by what you know you can do. You will plan to grow or change only in comparison to your accomplishments in the past. You may indeed grow in this way, but you are not likely to reach your potential.

Think of it like climing a mountain. When you start out you fix your eyes on a distant peak that you want to reach. Along the way your path will take many twists and turns. You will likely find that sometimes you have to down or back before you can continue your climb up and forward. Still, if you keep your sights set on that peak, you will always know where you are headed. If, on the other hand, you turn and look back and try to decide your next move based on where you have been, you will not be able to set a clear path. You may gain a sense of accomplishment and pride from what you have already done, but that will not get you to the top of the mountain.

When you plan from your vision back, you change the process completely. Vision in business is about your potential regardless of obstacles and roadblocks. It is about that future level of accomplishment or success that creates and sustains your passion and gives your team something to work toward. It is that mountian peak that you believe you can reach even though the entire path is not yet clear. When you start your planning with this in mind your plans define a path to that vision and gives you the tools to make the right decisions along the path.

Here’s a tip: As you prepare your next strategic plan, take the time to review your vision. Make sure that everyone on the team has a clear idea of that vision and talk together about the path you will take to make that vision a reality. Now ask the question as you develop each piece of the plan, how will this contribute to accomplishing our vision. If you make every part of the plan meet this standard, your plan is much more likely to be effective and your chances of success will be the highest they can be.

Of course, I also want to encourage you to plan with your business coach alongside. Remember that your business coach is a valuable asset who can help you expand your perspectives and see that mountain peak with greater clarity. They can act as a guide along the path, helping you to avoid pitfalls and wrong turns because of their experience. You don't have to go it alone.

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