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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients.
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By Stephen Balzac
Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients with his 7 Steps Ahead philosophy. Whether you're trying to hire the right people or get your team on track, this is the place for accurate, useful ...
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Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients with his 7 Steps Ahead philosophy. Whether you're trying to hire the right people or get your team on track, this is the place for accurate, useful information. Stephen is an expert on leadership and organizational development, a consultant and professional speaker, and author of \x34The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development,\x34 published by McGraw-Hill, and a contributing author to volume one of \x34Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play.\x34 Contact Steve at steve@7stepsahead.com.
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Oct. 26, 2012 10:06 a.m.



This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “Organizational Psychology for Managers.”



 



“Our goal is to succeed!”



“Our goal is simple: we will build a winning product.”



“Joe’s goal is to get his work done on schedule 75% of the time.”



“Billy’s goal? He should cross the street safely 75% of the time.”



 



I’ve heard each of these so-called goals presented with a straight face. They sound good; well, at least the first three sound good. The fourth? Well, isn’t it just like the third?



Goals are an interesting beast. We talk about them all the time, put them down on paper, hang banners with goals written on them, and exhort people to stay focused on the goal. Despite all that effort, a great many of these goals never come to pass. Most of them are little more than wishful thinking or downright fantasy.



The goal problem is two-fold.



First, setting a goal does not make it happen. You can set a goal of finding a pony under your Christmas tree, but that doesn’t magically cause a pony to appear. For a goal to succeed, there needs to be a plan to accomplish it. That planning process, sometimes known as the strategy, is critical. It doesn’t matter how much you want to succeed if you aren’t willing to plan you aren’t going to get there.



Now, I frequently hear that planning is pointless since no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. That may be true, but seeing the plan not survive is at least giving you feedback that you’ve encountered the enemy. Seeing how your plan is failing can give you vital information on how to shift focus, allocate resources, and generally adjust your strategy.



More broadly, though, the difficulty is often a misunderstanding of what it means to plan. I’ve worked for companies that tried to plan projects out 2-3 years. While this is possible in a very broad sense, details matter, and you can’t plan details that far in advance. Instead, you have to plan the steps in front of you. Part of the plan is to pause periodically and review the plan. What worked? What didn’t work? What are the next steps? Developing an effective strategy is not something you do once and then execute blindly; you have to constantly adjust as circumstances change. The beginning chess player tries to play out a sequence of moves and is paralyzed when the opponent doesn’t respond as expected; the chess master has a plan and constantly adjusts his strategy in response to his opponent.



Interestingly enough, the beginner usually can’t explain his plan, while the master can. The beginner’s plan sounds like, “I have a plan: I’ll do this, and this, and this, and that’s how I’ll win.” The chess master, on the other hand, is likely to treat you to a detailed discussion of his thinking processes and chess strategy. The first is easy to say and easy to listen to, but is fundamentally useless. The second is hard to articulate and takes a lot of effort to follow, but actually does have a chance of working.



I said earlier that there are two big problems with goals. The second is failing to fail correctly.



Sometimes failure is a form of feedback. In fact, this is exactly what you want failure to be: a means of testing out different strategies and figuring out which ones work best. It is Edison’s proverbial, “I learned a thousand ways to not make a light bulb.” Used this way, failure can be very helpful. Indeed, without such productive failures learning and strategy development is impossible.



However, sometimes the cost of failure can be somewhat higher. If Billy’s goal is to cross the street safely 75% of the time, what about the other 25%? Even if we raise the expectation to 99%, that one failure can negate all the successes: getting hit by a car can ruin your whole day.



It’s all too easy to confuse the two types of failures and businesses do it all the time. They are afraid to fail when that failure would give them valuable information and they take risks that sound good but where one slip causes you to lose everything.



How do you tell the two apart?



Check out the strategy around the goal. If there is a strategy and the possibilities of failure are being considered and managed, then odds are good that if you fail, you’re failing successfully. If there is no strategy or failure is not being considered as a possibility, turn and run away. All you’re doing is rolling the dice, and if that’s your game, Vegas is a better bet.



 



Stephen Balzac is an expert on leadership and organizational development. A consultant, author, and professional speaker, he is president of 7 Steps Ahead, an organizational development firm focused on helping businesses get unstuck. Steve is the author of “The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development,” published by McGraw-Hill, and a contributing author to volume one of “Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play.” Steve’s latest book, “Organizational Psychology for Managers,” is due out from Springer in 2013. For more information, or to sign up for Steve’s monthly newsletter, visit www.7stepsahead.com. You can also contact Steve at 978-298-5189 or steve@7stepsahead.com.

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