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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • January 23, 2022
  • minute read

How to Connect Actions to Goals 

There’s a massive difference between ‘doing’ and achieving.

Think of all the actions you – and your team –  took this year… (typically an executive will take between 5,000-10,000 non-trivial actions in a year.)

What percentage of all those thousands of actions directly contributed to achieving the goals you set for the year, and what percentage were either make-work, ineffective, or effective, but not directed toward the right goals?

In today’s video I show you how to make sure that next year, every single action you and your team takes gets you closer to your 2022 goals:

Read Transcript

Hi, Les McKeown here, Founder and CEO of Predictable Success.

As you think back on the year just coming to a close, what percentage of all of the actions that you took – that all of the people who you work with you took – what percentage of all of those [actions] directly contributed toward attaining the goals that you set for this year?

And… what percentage were busy-work, make-work, maybe good work, but not aligned with the goals that you wanted to achieve?

In other words, to what extent did everything you did this year contribute towards what you wanted to achieve?

And what if next year you could dramatically increase that percentage – if you could lock every single action that everybody took into the goals that you’re looking to achieve for next year?

Well, we have a great tool that I want to take you through today that we use with all of our clients to help do exactly that. It’s called The Alignment Pyramid, and here’s how it works:

The first thing that we’re going to look at is what’s happening at the every day mundane level of individual actions in your organization.

Now, whether there’s 20,000 of you, or 200 of you, or 50 of you, or 10 of you, [or] one of you – every single person in your organization takes between 15 to 50 nontrivial actions every day.

Now, by non-trivial I mean that in the context of whatever their role is, it’s something that’s meaningful.

So if I’m a receptionist, do I look up and make eye contact with this person who’s just come in? If I’m in a call center, do I close off this call within the period that I’m supposed to? If I’m the janitor, do I empty the trash cans diligently every evening? If I’m a sales manager, do I give this discount?

So, whatever their role is, every individual will take between 15 and 50 individual non-trivial actions every day.

Now what that means is – you can do the math – if there are 10 of you in your organization, you’re going to have an action cloud of somewhere between 150 and 500 individual actions every single day… – every single day.

Do the math. How many of you are there? How many actions happen every day? This is what we call the Action Cloud.

And here’s the kicker.

That cloud of actions, that repetitive, day-in, day-out, every single person taking between 15 to 50 non-trivial actions, that’s got to add up to something very, very important: your overall Mission, Vision and Values

In other words, if what you’re doing every single day doesn’t somehow get you closer to why you’re doing this darn thing, then it’s really not worthwhile.

It may be that you’re performing an economic net positive by employing people, paying wages and salaries and keeping, you know, cash flow going on.

But if you’re not achieving whatever it is that you want to achieve in the long term – the reason you’re doing this thing – then all of those actions are to no avail.

And the difficulty as we all grapple with every day, is the gap between the every-day mundane actions we take and the grand heights of our Mission, Vision and Values.

That’s a big, big gap to bridge. And so what do we do is typically to begin to break things down.

We’ll take our Mission, Vision and Values and we’ll set a series of Goals (usually medium- to long-term goals) that we know, if we hit those goals, then we’re getting closer to our Mission, Vision and Values.

If we’re running a for-profit, those are usually around the top line, the bottom line, asset value, return on investment, those types of goals.

If we’re running a not for profit, they’re much more likely to be around impact percentages – goals that impact what it is that we’re trying to achieve.

Whatever the goals are, we set those overall goals as a way to judge if we’re getting closer to our Mission, Vision and Values.But we’ve still got a gap between Goals and Actions, and we typically bridge those into further steps.

First of all, we’ll break our goals down into individual strategies – things we’re going to specifically do in order to achieve those Goals.

They may be investment strategies, they may be marketing strategies, sales strategies, infrastructure strategies – your mileage will vary depending on what your business is, whatever your organization is – either way you’ll set clear strategies which if you achieve, means you’ll achieve the Goals.

Now even at that point, typically Strategies need to be broken down into Tactics – individual Tactics that will help us achieve those Strategies.

So, for example, if one of your Goals is… (I’m just going to take something really, really simple and you can translate it into your world) – if one of your goals is to get a revenue increase in a particular year, then a specific strategy may be to use paid advertising – to get online and use paid advertising – and specific tactics will allow you to do this.

They (the tactics) may be, for example, identifying specific keywords that we’re going to lock in on, produce good content, drive traffic through paid advertising for those keywords.

So we’ve got our Mission, Vision and Values, and here we are bridging the gap to everyday Actions by breaking the Mission, Vision and Values down into some Goals.

That will help us identify in the medium to long term, Strategies that will achieve the Goals, Tactics that will achieve the Strategies, and now we’ve got a framework for the Actions.

Do our actions now get us where we’re going?

That’s all well and good so far, and it’s really important to get those layers all connected like a series of cogs – small cogs at the top, working all the way down to the very big cogs of Mission, Vision and Values.

The difficulty is this, that in the hurly burly of just getting stuff done, these connections can easily get lost just as the year wears on.

We get numb to the importance of the connections between these – and a quick word, the more detailed your strategic plan is, if you’ve got a very detailed strategic plan for next year, actually the more likely it is that that numbing effect will happen, because people have so many moving parts, they lose sight of what’s currently important.

So here’s what we do with our clients. We establish something very, very important. It’s something that sits right here in the intersection between Goals and Strategies and it’s something that we call an OMG – that’s an Overarching Medium-term Goal

Now, by this I mean something very specific.

By this I mean something that you can achieve within six to 12 months – and so typically what this is, because it’s something that can happen within a six to 12 month period, it’s essentially a rallying cry to give you a pull-through for the whole of the year.

It’s something you can keep going back to, something you can evangelize. It’s something that people can use as a touchstone to say, are we getting closer to achieving our overarching medium term goal.

Does this replace all of the other moving parts? Everything else in your strategies?

No, it does not. It supplements them and there’s sometimes a little bit of hard work to be done to identify clearly what your Overarching Medium-term Goal is going to be.

So I’ll give you my example.

For me this year, coming into the year thats about to start, my Overarching Medium-term Goal is to get all of my primary teaching about the seven stages of the life cycle and the four leadership styles (Visionary, Operator, Processor and Synergist) – to get all of my primary teaching on those topics onto a digital platform.

Now, is that my whole strategic plan for 2022?

No it is not, but it’s the single overarching Overarching Medium-term Goal, which if I do achieve, will pull everything else through for the rest of the year – and it’s really important that it sits here, at this level where it’s intimately linked to overall Mission, Vision and Values and the bigger goals that we have over the long term.

I have some specific values, which for me are to do with the stage of life that I’m in. That means I want to move away from doing as much face to face consulting as I’ve done in the past – not getting rid of it entirely, but doing more work online and digitally.

So that means my OMG is intimately linked to one of my key values and overall goals.

Now sometimes an OMG will be one of your actual Strategies that you have developed (and in fact for this year, for me that is the case. My OMG is actually one of the specific strategies that I have developed). So think about as a super-strategy.

Do I have other many other strategies that I will be working on in this incoming year?

Yes, I have.

But my OMG is what pulls me through everything else, and so gives transparency to every action that I’ll be taking (and those of the people that work with and for me), every action that they’re taking next year is going to be a touchstone: Is doing this helping to achieve our OMG?

Knowing that, effort, dollars, all the other things that we’re doing will come in behind that.

So that’s the Alignment Pyramid.

I hope you found it helpful.

 If you are interested in setting your own OMG, and one of the things that you want to do is use that to really clarify what you’re going to do, what everybody in your team was going to do in the very vital first six weeks of next year, then let me know in the comments section below.

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