In my previous posting, in this series, I left you with a bit a homework.

Simply, I wanted you to think about if you want to be better than they are, what does that mean, to you? In other words if you want to beat your Euro-zone and US competitors at their own game, what should you think about and then do?question

First let me say that this was a bit of a trick question or assignment. The full question “unfairly” (although intentionally) misdirected you towards outcomes. For those who may not be familiar with outcome or goal orientation, here is a brief excerpt from a Psychology Today article by Sherry Pagoto, Ph.D.:

“[…] high achievers pride themselves on being goal-oriented and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Without goals we would wander aimlessly in life.  But is it possible that we could wander aimlessly even with a goal?  It is not only possible, it’s very common.

How Goal Setting Can Hinder Your Success

Thus, if we re-examine the items I listed, hopefully you will notice that they truly are oriented towards outcomes/ goals:

  • Build better products?
  • Be faster to market?
  • Reduce your costs?
  • Improve your profits?

Each of the items express some “generally accepted” desired end state. So what is wrong with that, you might ask. In truth, nothing, except these items are very generalized or non-specific and they focus on an end state. They also are flawed in the sense that they, among other things, do not lead you to assess a means or method of attaining a goal or objective. Basically, there is nothing between today, your current state, and the desired outcome listed above, i.e., a better product or reduced cost.

So let me now ask these another way. My hope is to get you to see a bit broader perspective on the issues involved:

  • Build better products? Better than what? Better than whose? Better in what way(s)? Better, how?
  • Be faster to market? Be faster than who? How fast is fast enough?
  • Reduce your costs? Which costs need to be reduced? How will they be reduced? How much should they be reduced?
  • Improve your profits? Whose profits? The employees? The owners? Against which risks and what corporate treasure are we willing to take our profits (see the GM ignition switch discussion elsewhere in the news)?

My point is simple. There is a bit more to this than meets the eye. So now let me rephrase my homework question: What “would” success look like to you?

  • Are you able to characterize success by how it might look and feel?
  • How might you recognize success if it were to appear?
  • Is success fleeting or long lasting?
  • What might the dimensions of your success actually be?
  • Who is your real competition?
  • What is your success worth in terms of family, friends, time, effort, treasure, sweat, and tears?

You see, the fact is most of these factors will need to be addressed, as you build your business and define your success.

As I close on this brief “thought experiment,” I will leave you with an example to ponder. Process Enhancement Partners, Inc. (PEP) is our consulting business – Judah’s, Becky’s, and mine. As you will note from our side menu, we started this business quite a while ago and are now 20+ years down the road. We are a miniscule business; I listed our entire staff above. If you blinked here they are again, Judah, Becky, and me. A long time ago, we decided our objective was to remain tiny; and, we have succeeded! Our definition of success was not to grow but rather to interact with people and make a personal and professional difference. We specifically wanted to stay small and avoid growth. We decided our business was supposed to work for us and allow us to spend time with people, causes, and businesses we respect and enjoy. At the same time, we wanted to have time to spend with our families. These are by most standards a peculiar set of business objectives. But, they are ours. The point being, PEP’s success is defined by us; our success is not defined by others. It should be the same for you and your business.

You need to be very clear on what you want from your business “adventure” and what you are willing to do to achieve those objectives. You need to be explicit in expressing those objectives to your team as well as articulating the means by which you will measure attainment of those objectives.

In summary then:

  1. Having objectives/ goals are useful, but you need to augment them with ways by which to measure and gauge your journey. Do not “over” focus on the results, but remember to focus on the ways you wish to achieve them.
  2. Make your objectives your own. Do not allow others to dictate or define your success for you.

As Polonius states in Hamlet to Laertes:

“[…]This above all- to thine own self be true […]”

In the next article in this series, we’ll further our exploration on “Competing more effectively”.  We’ll begin a discussion on approaches, ideas, tools, and concepts for identifying and articulating your “true” objectives.

Mark Rabideau

Mark Rabideau

Mark Rabideau is a Management Mentor/ Coach with over 40 years of Engineering and Management Experience. He is a CMMI Institute SCAMPI High Maturity Lead Appraiser and Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is also licensed to teach both the CMMI-DEV and SVC constellations' courses. You may contact Mark directly by using the PEP contact page.