It may sound obvious, but the most successful companies do not get there by accident. They all have a definite corporate game plan. Usually, this is either a classic long-term plan rigidly adhered to, or a controlled evolutionary one. The common bond is a sequence of tasks and a mechanism for evaluating change.
So, if planning works for companies, why not use the same principles to achieve personal success? Think about it. The old cliche: “If you don't know where you're going, you will not know how to get there,” applies just as much to you or me as it does to the captains of industry. The key to a successful game plan is to deal with strategic issues and then consider a more detailed tactical plan. Companies develop mission statements, broad aims, objectives and then tactics – in that order. Sounds dull? It does not have to be.
Probably the hardest part for people to take seriously is the mission statement. Visions of naff posters containing contrived, American company waffle spring to mind – usually including such hackneyed phrases as “world class service” and “customer delight”. They are often insincere and rarely believable. For examples, look no further than most rail companies' charters.
But a good mission statement should define where a company is going and what it stands for. It should guide staff and advise clients. You can do this too by outlining where you want to go and how you plan to get there. Wax poetic or be as minimalist as Pepsi – “beat Coke”.
Long-term aims are easier to relate to. A company will strive to be market leader. You too should aim to be a leader in your own way. For a company, it could be about being No1 in a chosen product field. For you, it could be “to do a job you really enjoy” or “to own a successful commercial broker”.
The next step is to define objectives. For companies, these are measurable and driven by shareholder or stakeholder demands. Rentokil, for example, used to look for 20% annual growth. Personal objectives could include “to accumulate more than £1m by 2005”, “to work professionally with animals by 2008” or “to retire by the age of 55”.
That's the easy part. Now for the strategy that will get you there. Try imagining a critical path aimed at achieving your goals by mapping out the required steps. Our animal-loving friend will have to map a path to becoming, say, a qualified vet. And the would-be broker will need a set of targets to achieve qualifications within the profession.
The next stage is to consider specific tactics. These could include following a schedule of study milestones – including financing, revision and work experience. Or they could involve taking on additional tasks within your company or contributing to committee work.
Along the way, be prepared for changes or setbacks. Nobody has a crystal ball. While long-term objectives remain, day-to-day tactics may change. If you fail an exam or miss a promotion, your game plan stays on course. You just need to amend your action points and timetable.
The bottom line is that a considered and flexible plan enhances your chances of success. Without a plan, companies fail, armies fall and individuals pin their hopes on luck, fate, or the magical influence of a rabbit's foot.
Wouldn't it be better to have your future in your own hands?