January 10


Simple 5-step plan to reach your goals

Setting the goal and making the plan is the easy part. The real work comes in making it happen.

Executing a plan to reach your goal takes three things:

  1. Doing the work necessary to make progress
  2. Keeping track of where you are, what works, and what doesn’t work
  3. Adapting to changes in the situation

I’ll assume you know how to do the work in your business. In this post, I’m going to talk about how to master the second and third items.

Tracking progress

Measurement and tracking are important parts of any plan. If you can’t assess what progress you’ve made, how will know you are accomplishing your goals?

Tracking your progress doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming, but you do have to set up a process for doing it.

The first decision you need to make is what to track. To do that, identify the desired end result of the project. Are you trying to increase sales to a certain level? Reduce your costs by some percentage? Improve your customer service?

If you have been following along with our series, you have a list of priorities. That list will tell you what goals you are working toward.

The other big decision you’ll need to make is how often you will review your progress. In most cases, this will be monthly. For more complicated projects, you might want to look at your progress weekly.

Besides the ultimate goal for the project, you’ll want to have intermediate goals that coincide with each review period. Take a look at the post about breaking down big projects for some ideas about how to do that.

You’ve decided what to track and how often to track it. Now you need an easy-to-follow process for the tracking.

The Progress Review

When the time comes for your progress review, follow these five steps.

  1. Make sure you have all the data needed to understand how things are going. Also, make sure all the people working on the project are ready to talk about their progress.
  2. Begin the discussion by asking “did we meet our goal?”
  3. If the answer is no, then you need to find out why not. Look at the data and talk with the people involved to learn why the goal wasn’t met. Don’t settle for the first answer. Probe for the reasons why until you reach the root cause.
  4. Then, talk about what worked, what didn’t work, and what should be done differently in the future. You should find the root cause of your success and failures by asking why things worked or didn’t work. The outcome of this conversation will tell you if you need to adjust the plan or your final goal.
  5. Finally, set the goal for the next review and schedule the next review meeting.

An important part of goal setting is getting everyone’s commitment to achieve the goal. People will only commit to goals they believe they can achieve. This is where you need to challenge your people, but not to set goals that are unachievable. Finding that balance will take a bit of trial and error and a lot of listening to your people.

Besides providing challenging but realistic goals, you have one other critical responsibility. You must create an environment where your team is comfortable honestly discussing what worked and what didn’t work. Employees who are afraid to deliver bad news cannot do the job they want to do or the job you need them to do. That type of environment kills morale and productivity.

There are certain personality traits that can help or hurt. You need to be aware of how you and your team react to situations. See if you can find yourself and your employees in the types below.

What type of person are you?

When it comes to how people look at challenges and problems, they fall into one of three categories:

Inner directed. An inner-directed person will tend to take responsibility for things that aren’t actually their responsibility. The person who always responds to outside events or things done by other people with comments like “It’s my fault, I should have…” are an example of this type of person. Inner directed employees will burn out from stress. An inner-directed boss will often come across as a micromanager or control-freak.

Outer directed. The outer directed person tends to blame other people or outside events. An outer directed boss is the person who is often complaining that employees don’t get it. The outer-directed employee seems to always have an excuse for not getting something done.

Systems directed: The systems directed person avoids assigning blame to individuals – themselves or others. The systems-directed person asks what circumstances caused the issue. Then asks what system could prevent the issue in the future.

You and your team need to be systems directed to keep your projects on track.

Sometimes, a problem or a failure to meet a goal will be the result of someone’s poor performance or failure to keep commitments. When that happens, the time to address it is not in the progress review. You should address it privately with the individual involved and set a plan to remedy the failure.

Adapting to change

No matter how carefully we plan, there will always be things beyond our control. Some of the things that will happen will make it easier to reach your goals, others will make it harder. Your job is to adjust your approach when needed. This is a critical to your ultimate success.

If you follow the 5-step progress meeting agenda, you will have a pretty good idea when plans need to change.

Some things that might signal a need to adjust your plan or goals:

  • Changes in your competitors
  • Changes in economic conditions
  • Some external event that affects your product or service
  • Changes in customer preferences
  • Changes in your company’s financial situation

Progress toward your goals isn’t always a direct path. More often than not, you will follow a winding path from here to there. There will be plenty of detours and delays along the way. The successful business owner measures and adjusts to stay on course and achieve their goal.

Want to see our whole series about how to create and execute an annual plan?  Start with learning about the 6 steps to an annual plan.

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