How to greet the future – 2

Busy has never been synonymous with productive even though many people can hardly tell the difference.

How do you eat a whole elephant? No prize for guessing. One bite at a time. Objectives can be referred to as the sub-goals that are necessary to achieve your larger goals. They are the simple bites you require as you seek to eat your elephant. Every goal, before implementation, must be broken into small tasks to be done over a period of time. This helps to identify immediate gaps to fill. One is the need for people. The loftiest goals will suffer attrition without quality people to move it forward. Your clarity about where you want to go will largely determine the people who can be part of your journey. Such stakeholders include family, staff, customers, potential investors and every other person that will be relevant to the goals you have set.

A journey to Abuja from Lagos presents you with several options on how to travel; by road, or by air. If you choose to go by road, you still have options. You may drive or be driven in your own car or use public transport by either hiring a car all by yourself or going to the public motor park to join a vehicle with other passengers. Even then, your options will be decided by other factors like cost or urgency. If you choose to go by air, you have various options of which time to fly and on which airline. Whichever way you choose, the goal of getting to Abuja is constant. That is how strategies work. Strategies have to do with the development of available options. It is akin to identifying how many roads lead to a given destination. The more options you have, the freer you feel. Just like in the case of the Abuja journey, the option you choose will depend on capability as well as the urgency of your need to travel. In business, you might want to look at what ‘competing’ brands are doing, not so that you can benchmark your moves by them but so that you can see the possibility of doing something distinct.

Whatever strategy you come up with will need a plan to work. A plan is like a road map that spells out the specific landmarks and milestones that help progress on the journey. Note however that every plan that you refuse to follow is only as good as the piece of paper on which it is written. I have seen many well-laid out plans that never saw the light of day.

Otto von Bismarck was a Prime Minister of Prussia and the first Chancellor of the German Empire. He had a style of always having an alternative plan for any venture just in case one plan failed. In time, the world has come to adopt what was originally known as the Bismarck Plan but now known in popular parlance as Plan B. Things happen and original plans do fail.

Successful people hardly put all their eggs in one basket when it comes to planning. They always think through an alternative plan and face the future armed with it. Jesus Christ was God’s plan B for the salvation of creation in the event that the first Adam failed, which he did! When you have an alternative, the failure of the original plan may cause a hiatus in the process but that is only for the period required for Plan B to kick in.

Highly successful people employ a crisis anticipation strategy that asks at the beginning of the operation of a plan, what the worst case scenario could possibly be. What kind of disruptions could happen in the field of play? What possible obstacles may be lurking on the route but which the original plan has not captured? It is the anticipation of these innocuous but potential possibilities that necessitate a Plan B.

Plans help us to itemize logistics. It has been said that amateurs stop at talking strategy but professionals talk logistics. A good plan details resources, material, human and even time required to achieve the overall objective. It does not only chronicle what resources are available compared to what is required, it also specifies the various points and time such resources would be required and perhaps how they will be procured.

To drive a plan to actualization, there must be a set of activities. Action is the leg on which dreams walk. Until acted upon, goals are mere inscriptions that decorate a piece of paper. Activities in the plan must be organized along simultaneous and sequential lines. The simultaneous activities are those that would be done side by side without one impairing the other while the sequential activities are those that need to be done one after the other. In a manufacturing concern for instance, the activities of marketing, production, administration must run simultaneously. But for sales to happen, the production department must first make the products available. So, actual sale is sequential to the production activity.

Activities serve the goals and the objectives because they specify what needs to be done and who does what in the plan. Every objective has a chain of responsibility that holds certain people in the loop responsible for certain actions, failure of which may negatively impact on the overall outcome. Each delegated objective is also a set of expectations that come with parameters of measurement or evaluation. As indicated earlier when I was talking about goals, what gets measured gets done. In the wisdom of scriptures, where there is no clear vision, people cast off all restraint. To keep people focused and disciplined, give them clearly stated measurable tasks to accomplish. Assign tasks and set deadlines for accomplishing them. It is a proven fact that people will initially resist deadlines. But when they come to understand that they are necessary for everyone’s successful function in the collective, they will learn to comply and over time, actually look forward to them and will ask you for a deadline each time you give them a task to perform.

Whatever is not delegated cannot be supervised or measured. Many leaders unfortunately think that by relinquishing responsibility to others, they lose control. What they don’t realize however is that the more responsibility you give away, the more control you actually have.

Delegation is however not synonymous with abdication. Whatever you expect, you must be willing to inspect. But don’t stop there. Don’t just be the lord of the manor barking orders at people or shoving tasks down their throats. Give them a helping hand where required so that no one can arm himself with the excuse of the lack of a support framework as their reason for failure. Praise achievements in public but rebuke failure in private. Remember that every chain is as strong as its weakest link. Praise elevates self-esteem and inspires potentials. Build your team along the path of their individual strengths and hold meetings for the purpose of mutual accountability.

How close is the future? As close as the path you chart to it!

 

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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