December 20


How to score big wins by taking little steps

How many times have you made big plans that never ended up happening?

If you’re like most people, this has happened to you more than you’d like to admit.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

One of the most common reason goals don’t get met is that they are too big or too vague. Putting “change the world” on your to-do list is going to overwhelm you into paralysis. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set out to change the world. It just means you need to adjust your approach.

How does the saying go?  The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

In this post, we’re going to look at how to break down big goals into manageable steps.

If you’ve been following along with our series, last week you identified the ten top priorities for your business in 2016. That means you have ten big goals to achieve.

If not, no worries, you can apply the process here to any big goal or project you need to get done.

I’ll walk through the process of breaking down your big priorities and goals using an example.

Let’s say one of your priorities for 2016 is to make the delivery of your service consistent. You want every customer to have the same (great) experience every time.

Breaking down the big goal

We’re going to break the big goal down into smaller goals that are a little more manageable. For our example goal, the smaller goals might be:

  1. Decide what the standard delivery process should be
  2. Train all employees on the standard delivery process
  3. Set up a system to monitor delivery

When you achieve all three of these smaller goals, you will achieve the big goal. These smaller goals already seem a lot more manageable than the one big goal, but we can still make them even more bite-size. For each item in the list you just made, you can drill-down even further to create yet smaller goals.The magic of sub-goals

“Decide what the standard delivery process should be,” might break down into these even smaller goals.

  1. Understand how each employee is doing it today
  2. Identify the “best practices” from all the employee’s versions
  3. Create the standard process
  4. Test the process
  5. Distribute the final process to all employees

Breaking down “Train all employees on the standard delivery process” might look like this.

  1. Hold a training session for employees
  2. Have employees practice the new process
  3. Observe employees delivery of process with an actual customer

You can continue this drill-down process as far as you like. I usually continue this process until I have broken projects down to individual tasks that I can complete in 90 minutes or less. That is what I’ve found works for me.

Your preferences will probably be different. What matters is that you break your big goal or project down into what you consider to be manageable pieces.

You may not yet have enough information to break the big goal all the way down to a series of individual tasks. That’s ok. Just take the process as far as you can.

You may plan to delegate responsibility for some (or all) of the smaller goals to employees. In that case, you let your employee break their part down in a way that works for them.

For now, break the big goals down far enough that any individual piece can be completed in 4 weeks or less. You can continue to break them down when it comes time to start working on them.

If you have multiple goals and priorities, do this process for each of them.

Scheduling your goals

Now it’s time to get real about making these things happen.

Put them on the calendar.

First, look at your list of ten top priorities. Decide which quarter you will complete each goal. In some cases, you can complete all the work on the goal in one quarter. In others, it will take longer. Consider any dependencies among the goals and schedule accordingly.

Be realistic!

You aren’t going to finish all ten of your goals in January, so don’t try. You will just burn yourself out and give up on completing any of them. If you have a seasonal business, you aren’t going to have as much time during some parts of the year as others.

Write out a list of the items you are going to address each quarter.

Then, break down each quarter into months. Write down which of the smaller goals you are going to complete each month. If you like, you can break each month down into weeks and fill in the next level of smaller goals.

We might decide to schedule our “Make service delivery process consistent”goal for the first quarter. We’ll do each of the three smaller pieces in January, February, and March, respectively.

Schedule your goals

If you are using this process for a single goal or project, start from the end. Decide on the completion date and work backward from there to schedule each of the smaller pieces.

Track your progress

Planning is meaningless if you don’t execute.

Don’t finish your schedule and then forget about it.  Keep it someplace visible and schedule regular times to review your progress. Find someone who can hold you accountable for making progress.

This is working on your business. It is just as critical to your success as the work your business does.

We’ve come a long way in the past four weeks. We’ve:

  1. Written out a vision for the business 12 months from now
  2. Reviewed where we are today
  3. Created a list of priorities to get us from where we are to where we want to be
  4. Broken our priorities down into manageable pieces and established a schedule to address them

Next week, we’ll talk about how to empower your team to own these priorities and how to track your progress.

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