Likes ships passing in the night it appears that we have created our own disconnection in the realm of setting vision in business, government and societies around the globe.  The creation of mission statements that can only be best described as ‘cookie cutter’, wordy, convoluted and distant from the aspirations we have.  Goals that are in part appropriate but without unification with strategies we have set and strategies that have not been sufficiently challenged for possible enemies that can simply tear apart possible potential.  As a result we rest solely on task based deeds that are used to reflected what we have done but fall woefully short on achieve anything in so far as these more higher aspirations.

Over the course of time I have seen companies create pillars of separation between goals, strategies, tactics and tasks.  Each domain ruled by a faction of an organization to which their experience and skills are quite befitting.  Each faction being commended for the fine work that has been done, the effort put forth and certainly the enthusiasm that their efforts endear.  In the end we commend ourselves for targets met but more often than not remaining quietly reserved about where things went wrong.  We might defend these positions with the notion of changing circumstances, the lack of action on the parts of others (usually external) and still be complacent enough to accept that existence or gains have been nothing other than coincidence/luck.

Goals are not strategies, strategies are not tactics, and tactics are not tasks.  All of these elements involve cohesion.  They must fit one inside the other, each stressing the need for contribution while exercising these relationships to determine if we have everything that is needed.  Have we got all of the issues out, are we taking all the right steps, do we understand the threats and have addressed all of the ways to manage them?  Have we set KPIs (Key Process Indicators) and SLA (Service Level Agreements) that are dangling in space, irrationally constructed, unsupported and often misunderstood but even more importantly bear hardly any relationship to goals and everything to do about measuring task performance by individuals?   Yes, my friends it is a massive quite messy exercise that raises the question, “are we really doing an injustice to strategic planning?”.

Setting goals, developing strategy, conceiving tactics and producing tasks is not a cookie cutter process.  Some promote and even sell their frameworks with this being an answer to some of the sins mentioned previously.  Again a gross injustice because the forms and the process is not were the fault is, its in cohesion and the subsequent challenging that it offers.  You don’t get this from a checklist, a boilerplate form or a smartly crafted set of instructions, it comes from an intimate and developed understanding of how to do goal oriented achievement.  It depends on a deep understanding of your organization and its constituents in order to determine if there is any possibility of achievement.  As is often the case, it can present an impossible and confusing path to achievement where A does lead to B, and ends up taking you from A to 71.

In a recent case a company started out developing strategic goals, after several meetings and discussions the list grew by quite a few items.  Some of these were no longer strategic goals but were like tasks (somehow skipping tactics).  These items even grew their own planned work list of tasks that raised questions about whether the organization knew who they were (because the topics were off mark from the business objective), were annotated lists of things to do and a timeframe to do them by.  But still it failed to relate these to a tactic (which apparently doesn’t exist), a strategy that hasn’t been fully matured and understood, and an overarching goal that seems to non-existent.  The conservative would ask “are we missing a goal” and the skeptic would ask “are we doing all the tasks we need to do”.

This is not a simple problem it involves;

  • lack of coordination,
  • leadership problems,
  • thinking that things are too complicated when it fact they aren’t sufficient enough to see the issue,
  • following processes without owning the process from the standpoint of understanding and mastery,
  • endearing organizational and constituent preparedness, and
  • struggles in delivery that resorts to task focus

to name a few.

To turn this around we need to insure cohesion and mastery of strategic achievement.  Accolades are not based solely on achievement but doing so in a sound and risk controlled fashion.  A friend once said that 70% of everything we do is outside of our control, and for this reason we must work untiringly to control the 30% and to minimize the part in which we cannot to have direct control over.  We can influence, guide and develop a means by which the 70% can be influenced.  We see this every day in the products and services that become available.  While suppliers have no control over our buying they can entice us enough that we make decisions that potential favor them.  Thus to admit it as a ‘nothing we can do’ elements is fool-hearty and irresponsible.

Making the turn is not easy.  It will require dedication and a shift from doing something we are familiar with to one in which we become the student of the science of strategic planning.