By Paul Lemberg
Here's a provocation for the coming year, decade, century or
By now, you've set a working direction for the year,
established clear-cut objectives. Your first-iteration plan to
reach them should be in place. This now seems like an ideal
time to rethink the whole thing, doesn't it? After all, one of
the effects of internet time is that plans are subject to
change just as soon as - or perhaps even before - they are
Along these lines of thinking, perhaps there are some items
missed. Maybe there are issues you didn't have time to
or even things your mind touched on, but quickly passed over
deal with more urgent and pressing events. If you are
off-cycle, and on the verge of a new period, you can use this
exercise ex ante, rather than ex post. To help you stimulate
your neural pathways and hopefully create an idea or two, I
offer the following thoughts for your consideration. These
"considerations" are not sequenced in order of importance. I
think they are important.
1. How far in the distance is your planning horizon? Most
companies today plan 12-24 months out, calling anything beyond
that "vision." Internet time implies a shortened time frame
activities, but does that time-collapse extend to a shortened
vision as well? How much have you thought about what you will
accomplish this decade? What will be your company's impact on
the millennium? (OK - perhaps millennium is too far out. What
about the century?) You may say you have more pressing fish to
fry. Your investors would like to see increased returns sooner
than that. While this might be true enough, taking the long
view can inform the short view, leading to greater returns for
years to come. What do you see when you take the long view?
2. How are your prospects' needs going to change? How is their
world affected by the dramatic increases in connectivity and
the compression of time? What are you doing to understand
changing environment - their changing business issues? What
you doing to improve your customer's business under these
slippery conditions? To take it one step further, what do your
customers' customers want? While you are at it, you might stop
to consider how your suppliers' needs are changing? Could
changes open up new opportunities for you, or darkly portend
changes downstream totally derailing your business model? What
about your distributors? Is their world shifting? Can you both
3. Who in your organization simply isn't contributing? As they
say, your mileage may vary from individual to individual but
everyone has the responsibility to go some distance, to make
something valuable happen. Not everyone will make good on that
implied promise. The often observed 80-20 rule applies to your
staff as well: 20% of your people will produce 80% of the
That leaves 80% producing only 20%. Do the math: the bottom
of your organization produces almost nothing.
Who isn't making the cut? Should you be doing something about
it? You may think it beneficent to provide that bottom percent
with a paying job - don't. It isn't. The non-performers know
who they are, but they won't cut the cord on their own. Do
you can to help them reach the bar, but if after a while they
don't make it, set them free to find an environment in which
they can succeed. Free up your own resources for people who
make a difference.
4. Are you creating solutions to today's problems? What about
next week's, next year's, or the problems of several years
now? How are you figuring out what those problems are going to
be, way out there on the time horizon? Because the solution
sell today should certainly address today's problems, but the
solutions on today's drawing board better not. Who in your
organization is responsible for trend-tracking and
Are you building scenarios for the future? What about prospect
focus groups, or some other market-based feedback mechanism?
Who is your resident futurist?
5. What do you believe about the business you are in? For most
people this is a strange question - we rarely spend time
thinking about our own beliefs. The collection of beliefs you
hold about your business - what the Germans call
- is decisive in most of the choices you make. How much risk
take. What's risky and what isn't. What projects and
initiatives to undertake. What kind of resources you need and
whom to hire.
Whom to partner with, or should you have partners at all?
Cooperate or compete. How to treat your team. What your
customers should expect from you. How hard do you expect
All these decisions stem from your beliefs, and it will help
you to make them explicit. Once you surface those beliefs, you
can start to distinguish which are useful beliefs and which
What is the benefit of a particular belief? Is this belief
relevant to your current world, or is it a holdover from some
past part of life? Then, when you are ready, you can
with new beliefs.
6. What are the obstacles to proceeding along your current
path? Yes - you've set a plan in motion, and you are taking
steps toward its achievement. But what roadblocks may rise up
to stop you? What things could get in your way - foreseen and
unforeseen? (I know, if it's unforeseen how are you going to
see it? Use your imagination, that's the point of this
Rank these obstacles in terms of likelihood, then rank them in
terms of severity. Consider how you might deal with them if
they come up. The value of this is a) like the Boy Scouts, you
are better prepared; b) you may illuminate issues you have
trying to sweep under the rug; and c) you just may invent a
whole new approach to get where you are going, and it just
might be better than what you are doing now.
7. What, if you only knew how, would you be doing? What would
you do now if you had additional resources - and should the
lack of resources be stopping you? What, if you were sure it
would be successful, would you jump on right away? What would
you begin immediately, if your resources were limitless? (Yes,
limitless can be relative.) What are you betting the future of
your company on? What would you be willing to bet the future
your company on?
8. What are the most important issues, right now? Make
lists for issues in your market and issues in your company.
Which of these issues are you dealing with, which ones are on
the backburner, and which ones aren't even in the kitchen?
are the processes you use to deal with these issues? Which
issues are you ignoring, or hoping will go away?
What breakthroughs might be possible by addressing or
issues in the latter category? Where are you "resolving"
by compromising? What possibilities are available by refusing
to compromise, or by breaking your compromises? What old
stories or old ways of looking at things make these
seem inevitable? Where could new technologies (either
virtual, or societal) be applied to break these compromises?
9. What are you sacrificing to accomplish your current
objectives? The definition of sacrifice is giving up something
of value for something of even greater value. Did you intend
give up that thing of value, or is it a thoughtless byproduct
your other choices? Do not dismiss this lightly.
In your business there are a number of priority-conflicting
critical success factors. These include profitability, product
development, new sales, customer satisfaction, recruiting and
retention, revenue growth, sufficient capital - which one gets
the most attention? And in this operating cycle - will each
area get the attention it needs? Even in a lower position of
priority, these areas cannot be neglected. What isn't getting
done that needs to be done and how are you going to do it?
10. What is the purpose of your organization? I don't just
increasing shareholder wealth that simply won't inspire your
people to greatness. What besides that - a given - is the
purpose of your company. Purpose is not something you invent,
it is there already - you have to uncover it. Why do you come
to work each day? What do you hope to accomplish in the long
What about your executive team? Your individual employees -
do they come? What do they think they are doing each day? Do
know? Have you bothered to find out? You've just completed a
planning cycle, and I'm asking what your purpose is! If you
can't answer this question easily, now would be a great time
Bonus question for consideration: Are there any questions I've
listed above that you do not have easy answers to, but wish
Every so often I do an exercise called the "One-Hundred
Questions." Download a copy of a recent 100 questions at
www.paullemberg.com/tipsandtools.html, along with how
use this simple thought-provoker.
(c) Copyright Paul Lemberg. All rights reserved
About The Author: Business Coach paullemberg.com and
Strategist, Paul Lemberg is the President of Quantum Growth
Coaching, the world's only fully systemized business coaching
quantumgrowthcoaching.com program designed to create
More Profits and More Life™ for entrepreneurs.