I am a huge fan of Seth Godin’s work and I gain great inspiration from his blog, which has helped me so much in my own businesses. Seth articulates the things that we are all thinking in a way that is both thought provoking and challenging with a very bold and convincing approach.
In his motivational blog, Seth wrote a great entry around the ‘Map and the Compass’ in which he was challenging us to question our map (plan) and explore how well it relates to our compass (vision). What direction is your compass pointing? Is there a clear ‘True North’? The message is simple and direct, there is no point having a great business or project plan if is not pointing in the right direction!
Our days are full of plans, but not all of them are being directed in the right way. We sometimes find ourselves caught up in the plan but fail to get clear on the ultimate destination. Our “True North” encompasses our guiding principles, our vision of what success looks like for the organisation and for the people involved.
The “Map and Compass” theory delivers a key insight. When thinking about your strategy how much time do you waste on getting the map just right with no regard for the compass? I see it happen all too often in organisations and with consultants. We hear things like “Our business plan has fifty actions, we have assigned 100 owners to tasks all due next quarter, and our leadership program is in place along with our engagement strategies. We have the project execution plans, our detailed program, and technical specifications for our projects.” Sounds terrific… doesn’t it!? However, when people are too engaged in the ‘check list’ and try to meet deadlines, they forget to look up and get on the business! This can lead to a fear of asking the tough questions of ourselves, our people and our clients.
Lists of tasks and actions mean nothing if they are not tied in with one direction. They mean nothing if they are not aligned to our true north. There’s no point using a detailed map that is heading in the wrong direction? A clear vision of the future is critical in the form of a high level three or five year strategic plan. This can be built on one or two pages and should include your vision, values, unique selling proposition, your competitive advantage, your desired culture, along with your guiding success principles and targets.
A key success factor to consultants when working with clients around their strategic plan is to gain an understanding of what the client, project, and non-owner participant objectives are. Without a clear and mutual understanding of the direction we are headed in we could easily end up in Africa when we are keen to go to Asia! All our time and efforts will have been wasted by then.
Face yourself in the mirror and ask: What is your compass?! Never let fear or the need to have every action documented get in the way of focussing on what matters for success and driving positive behaviours for your business or you as a consultant.
Furthermore, your team, your family and your own life will thank you for creating a vision that they can engage with and understand how they can contribute to it rather than a series of actions that don’t link to the bigger picture. You can’t hit a target you can’t see!