There is a simple five-step formula that you can use for establishing clear objectives and for strategic planning for the rest of your career. As regularly as breathing in and breathing out, you should practice these five principles in every part of your business.
Step One. The first letter, “G,” stands for Goals. Goals in business represent the final financial results that you want to achieve. All business goals can be defined in financial terms. Your goals
Must be clear, written, and specific. They must be measurable and exact. They must be time-bounded with deadlines.
Some examples of financial goals are sales volume, net profit, return on equity, return on investment, return on sales, growth rate, market share, and profit per customer. Which numbers you choose to zero in on largely determines how you will organize and deploy the people and resources of your business.
Step Two. The second letter, “O,” stands for Objectives. In this case, your objectives are the subgoals that you must accomplish to achieve your larger, final goals. Some of the subgoals that you will have to accomplish before you can achieve your larger goals of profitability and return on investment are the following:
1. You must obtain, organize, and deploy the necessary financial resources to build and maintain your business operation.
2. You must acquire, train, manage, and motivate the appropriate people to do the job and carry out the work.
3. You will have to advertise, promote, market, and sell a specific volume of products or services within a specific time, at specific prices, yielding specific levels of profit.
4. Once you have accomplished the first three goals, you will have to produce, manufacture, distribute, and deliver the products and services that you have sold.
5. You will have to organize the logistical and administrative details of the business in order to handle the information, paperwork, processing, and other activities that underpin all successful business enterprise.
Once your goals and objectives are clear to you, and to everyone you depend upon to carry them out, you can move on to step 3 in the GOSPA Model.
Step Three. The third letter, “S,” stands for Strategies. These are the different approaches or ways that you can go about achieving your goals and objectives. To get from Point A to Point B, there are many different routes you can follow. Your choice of an appropriate strategy will largely determine whether or not you succeed or fail. The choice of the correct strategy is therefore vitally important.
Begin by asking this question: “What are all the different ways that we can accomplish this goal?” Remember, a goal not yet achieved is merely a problem not yet solved. Approach the attainment of a goal or an objective as you would seek the solution to a problem. For example, Alexander approached his battles by answering the question, “How can I undermine the objectives and morale of the enemy’s army?” He succeeded by making the enemy believe its goal was unattainable. Remain open to different and unusual solutions.
Beware of any goal or objective for which there is only one possible strategy. Beware of any problem for which there is only one solution. Beware of any question for which there is only one answer. Continue asking the question, “What else could be the answer?” Before you finalize a strategy, you should have a variety of potential strategies available to you. This requires the hard work of thinking and is the key responsibility of the leader and the decision-maker.
Once you have developed a series of possible strategies or approaches to achieving your goal or solving your problem, you should evaluate each of these options based on the following factors:
1. What are your capabilities? Just because you want to do something does not mean that you are capable of doing it. Desire and enthusiasm are wonderful qualities, but they do not translate into effective results unless they are accompanied by core competencies and capabilities.
In Jim Collins’s 2001 book From Good to Great, he makes the key point that the great companies are those that put the right people in place, in the key positions, before they make any final decisions about goals, objectives, and strategy. Do you have the people you need? Can you get them? The most effective fighting forces have the best trained and most aggressive officers at all levels.
2. Do you have the resources, both internal and external, to carry out a particular strategy? General Bernard Law Montgomery, known as “Martini Montgomery,” was obsessive about having far greater supplies of weapons, armament, and materiel than he would need before launching a major attack against the enemy. This was the key to his victory at El Alamein over Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in 1942. Do you have the necessary financial resources? Do you have the necessary contacts and alliances in the marketplace? Do you have the necessary knowledge, skill, and experience to carry out a particular strategy? If not, can you acquire them? If you cannot get them, what would be an alternate strategy that is more consistent with the resources that you have available? These are key questions that you must ask and answer before you commit to a particular course of action.
3. What is the situation in the marketplace today? Are sales for your product or service strong or weak? Are sales growing or declining? Are the trends in the market moving in your favor and boosting your sales and profitability, or are the trends moving against you? A good leader is very sensitive to the nuances of the environment and is constantly testing his assumptions about the state of business, as it actually exists today.
4. Who is your competition, and how are they likely to react to any strategy of yours? In Michael Porter’s book Competitive Advantage, he emphasizes the importance of considering the responses of your competitors to any action you take in the market. There is a military axiom: “No strategy ever survives first contact with the enemy.” You must carefully plan every possible detail of your strategy and logistics. But you must be prepared to modify your strategy quickly in response to unexpected actions taken by your competitors to defend their markets or to seize yours.
Whatever your strategy, you should assume that your competitors will move to counteract it in some way. The more successful you are with your strategy in making sales and taking market share, the more vigorously and aggressively your competitors will move to either copy your strategy or undermine your perceived strengths. Therefore, whatever strategy you decide upon, keep your plans to yourself as long as possible. When you do launch, aim to get there “firstest with the mostest” so that you can achieve maximum results before your competition reacts.
Count Otto von Bismarck, the “Iron Chancellor” of Germany, was considered to be the foremost diplomat and states- man of his time. He was famous for always having a “Plan B,” a “Bismarck Plan,” in his drawer. This was his fallback plan in case his first plan did not work. No matter what happened; no matter what reverses he experienced at the great councils of Europe, he was always ready to bounce back with a well- developed and well-thought-out alternative plan.
You should do the same. Once you have decided upon a particular strategy, you should immediately develop an alternate strategy, just in case the first strategy doesn’t work. Having an alternative plan to fall back on gives you a greater sense of confidence, courage, and boldness in executing your original plan. It is a powerful psychological factor that you should use to your advantage.