So you’ve set out to grow your business and have defined, what you feel are sensible goals to reach. They follow the typical SMART approach, and everyone has been working hard to get things moving. – Thing is, it’s not working out. Goals are not being met… How come? – and what do you do about it?
It isn’t often easy to admit that the plan isn’t working, especially if a lot of time and effort has gone into it! Nobody likes to have that conversation, even with themselves…In the bathroom mirror.. Trust me!
The first thing to work out is WHY aren’t you meeting your goals. This is not an easy task. It really isn’t. Usually, in my experience it comes down to the two questions below.
Were there any measures in place to know it wasn’t going to work?
Every time I have this conversation with someone, it is because things didn’t work out for them. That doesn’t mean that they set a goal the other times, and it worked that it was planned properly. It just means that they could see the resulting success, not that the set-up was right. If you plan properly, you should have the tools in place to know whether things are going to go well. The trouble with most goals is that they are ‘lagging’ measures. This means that it is often too late to change the outcome once measured. I like to call it Schroedinger’s Goal.
Setting a core objective must have a series of ‘leading’ measures in place, so you know you are on track to the desired outcome. That way, you know things need adjustment or rescoping way before it becomes a failure.
A simple example is a goal of 12 new clients a year. It is too late to go back and change things if you only have ten new clients at the end of the year. A simple leading goal would be one new client per month. If you have a couple of lean months, you can adjust the approach to bring you on track, or revisit the goal if it isn’t achievable.
Were they the right goals in the first place?
This may sound a little obvious or stupid, but sometimes you might be looking for the wrong thing, working toward something that isn’t right or off incorrect assumptions. For example, without a purpose to the company, you might be taking on the wrong kind of clients. – Making it hard to focus on a niche/expertise. You might have too many internal accountability problems to kick the client acquisition plan in gear.
The goals may sound and look great on paper. They may inspire some really good feelings in the team. But, if they are without the right focus or don’t have the backing of one (or many) independent factors that make up an organisationally healthy company, they might be the wrong goals. Typically the desire to do well is there but, the underlying factors that drive accountability and traction may not.
What do I do when they aren’t being met?
Let’s say for the moment that you have the right goals and the right leading measures in place to know when things are not going to plan. If things are not going your way, then the key thing to not do is to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ and scrap the whole thing.
It’s vital to assess where things may not be going right first, even if you still end up scrapping things. That way, when it comes to changing the plan or for any future plans, you know where problems came in.
There is nothing wrong with changing a plan, especially if the outcome isn’t looking achievable. It may be that things are being worked on; some of the assumptions made or forecasts predicted are inaccurate. It’s better to be up-front about it and adjust than to keep working in the knowledge it won’t work out.