At the end of every year a consulting colleague — who I admire and adore — posts about how she takes the last few weeks of each year to set her professional and personal goals for the upcoming year. For a nanosecond I feel envy because – you guessed it – I have not yet set any such goals.
Then I remember a significant difference between us: she has no kids and I have five. I have eight-year old twins plus three delightful step kids. So, while I imagine her sipping a latte in her clean and organized home, thoughtfully reflecting on what she wants to accomplish in her business and personal life, I am quite aware of what the last two weeks of MY year typically look like:
My end-of-year adventure includes a flurry of online and in-store shopping where I make approximately 270 shopping decisions resulting in the purchase of 90 Christmas presents for 25 people (I keep an Excel spreadsheet to track it all!), separate the twins’ presents “from Santa” vs. those from mom and dad, find a babysitter to take the twins away so I can wrap their presents using two different types of wrapping paper (Santa’s and ours), hide their presents, help the twins buy presents for the rest of their family, and make sure they have clean/ironed/seasonally appropriate clothing and matching shoes to wear to three different family Christmas parties. Throw in a school band performance, two kid rock band shows, a last-minute school talent show (for which I, of course, have to invite 10 grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins AND coordinate their attendance), remember to fill out dance recital costume forms, and remember to buy and hand deliver holiday gifts for nine teachers and a bus driver.
Then there are our twenty-something year old kids. In addition to one having moved back in with us, the end of year has included a car accident, a serious concussion, reviewing residency applications, and a last-minute trip to visit one out of state who couldn’t get off work to come home for Christmas.
Oh, and did I mention my twins’ birthdays are five days after Christmas? So on top of everything else I’m also buying and wrapping all those presents and planning two birthday parties – this year it’s Unicorn and Fortnite-themed parties at indoor trampoline parks and laser tag arenas.
But…EVERYONE is busy. It might not be kids. It might be caring for an elderly parent, dealing with an unexpected health crisis, a job loss, a new promotion, a kitchen remodel, launching a new business, an upcoming board meeting, or just the everyday frenzy of life.
Here’s the thing: Regardless of what’s happening in our personal lives, our professional lives, or at our organizations, we shouldn’t stress ourselves out to create goals simply because it’s the end of a calendar year, the end of a fiscal year, our birthday, an anniversary, time for the board retreat, because your current strategic plan is about to “expire,” or any other arbitrary deadline.
Goals are important. Strategy is important. They help us envision where we’re headed, so that we can chart our course and align our time and resources toward getting there.
But goals can be set at ANY time. And they should be reviewed and revised as often as is helpful. Sitting at the beach during summer vacation? Great time to set your goals. On a walk in the crisp spring air? Perfect place to reset your priorities. Your team has accomplished a major milestone? Why not think even bigger about what else you can accomplish together? Similarly, you can revise, refresh, and course correct your goals or set new ones if you’ve met them or realized they are wildly off course.
“OK Kris, I get it. Don’t stress myself out. But I really want to have a clear strategy and a plan to get there,” you say.
Here’s what I advise my clients and what I will tell you:
Strategy is your desired future state. What do you envision for yourself, family, foundation, business, or whatever else you are focusing on? What type of person or organization do you want to be, what is the change you want to create in the world? Brainstorm that and write it down. That’s your strategy.
Next, look at your current state. Where are you today (you as a person or as an organization)?
Now, think about how you can get from your current state to your desired future state AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. This is strategy implementation. I’m not talking about incremental change here. I’m talking about speed – what will get you there the fastest? Who are the people you need, and how do you align them, your systems, processes and structures to get to your desired future state?
Next, identify your top three priorities for implementation (what are the most important things that have to happen now), and assign accountabilities (who is responsible for what, by when). Focus everyone involved in those top priorities, regularly check in on progress (at least monthly), and see how fast you can achieve your strategic goals!
You can do this for yourself in a few hours. You can accomplish this with your team in one to two days. You don’t need lengthy strategic planning processes and you don’t need to hire a consultant. But if you think an outside advisor and facilitator would give you the push you need, I’m happy to help. I do this all the time with my clients. Feel free to contact me any time to discuss: firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-800-598-2102 x1.
© 2019 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.
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Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, has helped to transform the impact of top global philanthropies for 20 years. A member of the Million Dollar Consultant Hall of Fame and named one of America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers three years in a row. Author of the award-winning book Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders, which was named one of “The 10 Best Corporate Social Responsibility Books.” For more ways to improve your giving, visit Putnam Consulting Group.
“Kris brings a rare and unique perspective to her philanthropy consulting that makes it easy for us to bring our best selves to our work as grantmakers. It’s clear that she has invested in her own knowledge and capacity and has shared that with our field. In addition, she holds herself and her practice to the highest standards of integrity, honesty, clear thinking and creativity, and she helps our organization do the same.” –Ronn Richard, CEO, The Cleveland Foundation