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Are your Objectives Really Worth Pursuing? Or are they just “Lead Bricks?”

By Robert W. Bradford, President and CEO

Strategic Planning Expert Robert Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert Robert Bradford

In my first post on strategic objectives, I discussed a simple test to tell whether an objective you set for your organization is truly strategic.  I’ve also highlighted two common types of non-strategic objectives, the incremental objective and the accounting objective.  Today, I’ll cover another common non-strategic objective – the lead brick objective.

For some managers, one of the uncomfortable things about the simplified strategic planning process is that it requires accountability for the completion – or non-completion – of objectives that move your organization in the direction of your strategy.   This discomfort is healthy – it’s hard to get anywhere without feeling uncomfortable about your current position – but it is unfortunately easy to avoid by devising certain types of objectives.  One of the most common is an objective that simply reflects what would happen anyway in the normal course of your business.  For example, if you have good reason to expect a specific market segment would grow by 10% this coming year, you’d feel very comfortable committing to an objective to grow that segment by 5%.  Why wouldn’t you – it will be done about as easily as falling off a log!  Unfortunately, for strategic planning purposes, this type of objective is not just a waste of time – it will preclude you from actively pursuing a more vigorous objective that would necessarily require attention and resources.  This is certainly true if you limit the number of objectives you manage – and we strongly recommend you limit yourself to a maximum of 10 (or less!).

How can you manage around this tendency?  First, you want to test your objectives with two questions:

  1.  Are we likely to achieve this objective without an action plan?
  2. Will the active management of the action plan make a difference in our results?

If the answer to the first question is “yes”, there is no need for an action plan to achieve the objective, so don’t waste a precious action plan on it.  If the answer to the second question is “no”, then the action plan is useless, and should also be avoided.  Strategic action plans should be strictly limited to objectives that require top level co-ordination of resources – both people and money.  They should also be limited to objectives that will change the direction of your enterprise or propel it more successfully along the chosen direction.

Have you experienced the frustration of “lead brick” or other useless objectives?  Consider attending our popular seminar “Simplified Strategic Planning” and come home with a treasure trove of ideas to improve the results you get from strategic planning in your organization.  Register at www.cssp.com today!

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.
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