This blog is about your Envisioned Future and follows on from the ones on Core Ideology – Core Values and Core Purpose.
So you should have a strong sense of purpose as a team and identified and tested your culture – the things that define you as a team and as a business – and you should understand why these are so important. If not then please take a look at the previous blogs.
Now we have done that and looked at the kind of ‘forever’ stuff, we need to bring it a little closer to home and look at where we want to be in say 10-15 years.
As a reminder of what we are doing here, we are starting out with the long term and step by step bringing it back to the day to day – each time with a little more detail. In this way we can ensure that everything we do, every tactic that we implement, will be taking us a step closer to where we want to be in the long term. We can also turn our vision into a plan as opposed to just having a dream.
So we are going to work backwards from our core ideology, through our 10-15 aim, our 3 year plan and then to the next 12 months.
So – where do you want to be in 10-15 years? Envisioned Future
Actually it is not so important whether it is 10 years, 20 years or even 7 or 8 – what is important is that we can see it as a point in time that is important to us and that it is far enough ahead that we can consider things without what is happening today in the business constrain our thinking.
So if you know that in 12 years’ time you will be 60 and you want to retire on a beach in the sun – or on your 90ft yacht then that is the moment we should pick. If you know that you are aiming for a business sale in 8 years then let’s pick that horizon. If you do this exercise with your Senior Management team, you may not say why you have picked 12 years if you are thinking of selling (although arguably you may) but you can still pick the time horizon.
What we are after, in the words of Jim Collins, is a ‘Vivid Description’ of what we want our business. Just bullet points – we don’t need to write an essay.
Try this exercise: Ideally do it with your senior team if you have one – or with your business or life partner or someone important to you. Allow 90 to 120 minutes to do make a reasonable pass at this.
Individually, imagine a journalist has written an article about your business.
First question – who do they work for? Is it a local or regional publication – for example the local branch of the Chamber of Commerce or is it a national or international publication or other media – either specific to your sector or to business or to general news? What is the publication called?
Next – imagine what they have written and start to make bullet points:
Are they writing about a specific event – for example a business sale or acquisition or merger, perhaps a relocation or opening of the 100th office. Could it be that the business has won some highly prestigious award in your sector or for something like customer service or is simply that you have reached a milestone in turnover or customer numbers/ market share or similar
What are the key things they are saying in the article? –
- what are you known for?,
- what milestones have you reached?,
- what awards have you won?,
- what do your employees think of working there?,
- how big are you (turnover, staff)?,
- what kind of customers have you got and how many?,
- what kind of products and services are you providing?,
- where are your offices/ premises, are they owned or leased………?
And any other relevant things you can think of.
Give people 10-15 minutes to do this – much longer and we are in danger of overthinking it – much shorter and you won’t get the good stuff.
You’ve done this individually so far – noting down what each of you (if you are a team) think the business should strive to look like in 10-15 years’ time.
Now get out the flip charts and get everyone’s ideas up on the walls for all to see and debate – this might take you another 15 to 45 minutes depending on the size of your team and how much debate you have – but it will be a really interesting discussion. If you get caught in a real debate over something key to the future direction and it looks like taking much longer then you may have to decide whether you can reach a decision in the meeting or whether you need to gather more information and re-convene another time.
To tidy it up – agree as a group the top few ideas (it may be 5 or so) and add a little more information so that they become real and you can really imagine how they look – and then these become your vivid descriptions. Allow another 15 minutes or so for this – it should mainly be pulling together from the flipcharts.
Now you should have a great image of the future business – and one ideally that the team has shared in and are committed to
Now we reach the last part of the Vision – we need to set ourselves a Stretch Goal – or as Jim Collins calls it a BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal. This is not some small easy to achieve goal like increasing sales by 10% – nor is it some ridiculous unachievable goal. It needs to be something that at a stretch, with effort, focus and perhaps a fair wind that we think we stand a 50 to 70% chance of achieving in the time frame of our vivid description.
This shouldn’t be too hard. We’ve done the thinking and the likelihood is that it will be one of our snippets we have already written down in our vivid description. We may need to tighten it up and make it a bit more specific – but if should be there. If you come up with something else entirely then perhaps your vivid description thinking wasn’t complete enough.
Your stretch goal should also link back in some way to your core purpose – so you can start to see how these all work together and should be aligned.
A stretch goal can be numbers based or more qualitative, it can be competitive or aspirational – so target based, competitive or role model for example:
Become a £1m turnover business with 20% net profits by year 10
- Build a business that could be sold for £5m in year 10
- Take 10% market share from our leading competitor by …
- Become number 1 or number 2 in our key market sectors..
- Be seen as the Rolls Royce of the catering equipment market in the UK
Any of these types of stretch goal are good – what is important is that you and the team are absolutely behind it and that there is a way to know if we have got there or not!
So now we have a really powerful vision. We understand our core culture – our ideology – we know our values, our purpose and we have our Envisioned Future where we want to be in 10-15 years’ time and described how our business will look at that point.
Now we have to make a plan to make it happen – and this will require focusing on the right things and setting ourselves a 3-year ‘base camp’ with an action plan to get there that will enable us to continue onwards and upwards to our Stretch Goal – and we’ll start on that next!