This is the time of the business year when many professionals are busier than ever because they feel trapped between finishing the execution of last year’s strategic plan and starting the process of developing next year’s plan. Yesterday afternoon, I was conducting an information gathering interview as part of the design for an upcoming business simulation workshop when I asked our subject matter expert – the President of a Business unit – how things are going.
“Oh, don’t even ask. It’s crazy. It’s goal setting season. No time to think.”
That made me think! How can a business leader say there is “no time to think” during goal setting season? I asked him to explain and he shared that he is so busy setting department and individual goals – “It’s a very time consuming process” – that he didn’t have time to focus on anything else.
Unfortunately, this hard-working leader is not alone. There are thousands of leaders engaged in goal setting season who don’t take the time to utilize business acumen skills to think strategically and effectively plan their goals. For those of you struggling with goal setting season, here are three quick business acumen tips to help you survive.
Assess where you are now
Any good goal setting process has to start with an open and honest assessment of where you are now. Notice the emphasis on open and honest? Too many leaders fool themselves and their teams by not being open and honest about where the business is relative to the execution of the strategy, the quality of your products and services, the effectiveness of the marketing strategy, the effectiveness of the selling approach, competitive positioning, and most importantly the evolving and changing voice of your customers.
Key Tip: Don’t engage in goal setting season or start to set goals until you know what has worked and where your customers are going.
Revisit your value proposition
Goal setting season is one of your only opportunities during the year to challenge and revisit your value proposition to customers. Is it still the right value proposition? How has your customer’s value dashboard changed? How have competitors evolved their value proposition relative to yours? Are you aligned in terms of your value proposition internally, meaning that all functions and all departments know what to do and how to do it in support of the strategy? There are a number of business acumen tools that you can use to accomplish this including the product portfolio analysis, price-quality matrix, and business strength analysis.
Key Tip: Don’t set any goals until you can confirm and evolve your value proposition.
Gain Input from Internal Stakeholders
There are two significant mistakes that most organizations make when setting new goals. First is to think that they know what markets and customers are going to do without the right assessments and information. The second mistake is not to consider the input of internal stakeholders. Gaining insights and support of internal stakeholders can take time and make you feel that you are under more time pressure, but there is an excellent payoff when done correctly.
Key Tip: Don’t set goals in a vacuum; gather information, insights and supports from customers and internal stakeholders.