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• Governmental regulations.

• Technological changes.

• Socio-political challenges.

Making It Happen

The point is to build on your strengths, limit your weaknesses, capitalize
on your opportunities, and survive the threats to your business. Devis-
ing a strategy for doing each is key.
20 Create Your Vision

This is a tool often used for a group discussion by key people and for
good feedback to management of how employees view the company. A
SWOT Analysis can be done for the company as a whole, as well as for
various departments. This is how I use the process:

• Divide a blank sheet of paper into quadrants, marking a heading
for each of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

• Give copies to key staff members and ask them for their analysis
independently. Then ask for all the input brought in from each
member of the group in each of the four categories.

• Write out all ideas on a board in front of the group, and then pick
7 to 10 of the items in each category that seem best to fit your
company. As with many management issues, the challenge for
you is to judge well which items under each heading are key and
which aren™t.

When you™ve identified Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and
Threats, you can compare each to your vision and mission statements.

Reality Check

Doing the list is just the first step. Now look at your list and ask yourself
these questions:

• Are you using your strengths to their fullest capacity? Are they
things you could leverage by teaching them to more people to de-
velop more product, market better, or be more efficient?

• Do your weaknesses and threats make your vision and mission
unrealistic? If there are illogical connections or inconsistencies,
what do they mean?

• Do you celebrate what you do well enough?

• Why have you chosen to live with your weaknesses? Would elim-
inating these be painful? Result in difficult staff changes or cul-
tural changes? Are they financially costly to resolve?

• What is holding you back from taking advantage of your op-

• Are your competitors taking better advantage of these than you are?
Moving from Vision to Action

• What can you do immediately to minimize threats?

• Do you have plans to minimize the damage if any of these threats
become a reality?


The next step in the process of analyzing your company and defining
your vision is to set your corporate goals and objectives.

Corporate objectives turn vision and mission into specific items to be ac-
complished. They should also be written to include specific measure-
ments to know if success has been achieved.

Corporate goals can be set for many years in advance. With the current
pace of change, focus on three years out at the most for setting real objec-
tives. Objectives must be updated often and most companies set a plan-
ning structure to update them on an annual basis. You want to do the
most detailed planning for work you decide is the next step toward your
vision”work that can and should be done right away or in the next 12

Corporate objectives must be set at the corporate level. They should be
big, bold, and highly motivational. But there shouldn™t be too many
of them or they dilute the possibility of accomplishing any. Two is
probably too few, nine too many”five always seems like a good num-
ber to me.

The corporate objectives should also be realistic. The goal for a small dry
cleaning establishment to grow to $10 million in revenue its first year is
not going to be good for the owner or the employees. A more realistic
growth plan, perhaps to open four new stores in the next three years,
will make a better goal.

Ultimately, there should be subobjectives set for all aspects of the busi-
ness. You should set goals for constant improvement in all segments of
the business, even if you focus more of your time, attention, and re-
sources in certain areas. You may never set a corporate goal to streamline
your accounting department, but that might be a subobjective to an over-
all cost-cutting strategy.
22 Create Your Vision

Good measures will have numbers and times attached to them.
Here are some examples of goals and objectives:

• We will have 20 new customers at the end of the year.

• We will have a 10 percent market share in our main product line.

• Our substantial investment in R&D will allow us to have three
new products in the pipeline in 18 months.

• We will generate gross revenues of $1 million per quarter.

• Our gross profit margin will increase from 28 percent to 33
percent by the end of the coming quarter due to cost-cutting

• We will open three new locations over the next 12 months.

• We will increase our workforce to 70 employees by the end of
the quarter.

• The business will have a net worth of $14 million in 5 years.

• I intend to sell the business in 3 years, so it must have a compe-
tent management team in place by the end of year 2.

Once you decide what to do, you have to decide who does the work”and
this takes you to the action plan. Here you break down the work by de-
partment, team, and individual. You let each one know what part it plays
in the overall plan, when it must complete a given task, and how it can
measure its own success.

Making It Happen

Although corporate objectives are set by leaders and managers, they may
begin as a negotiation between the owner or CEO and the managers of
the company. The owners or the board want certain things accomplished
this year. The managers don™t know if those things are doable given what
they know about the capabilities of the company. The discussion of
whether the profit goal of 10 percent is realistic this year is important.

The owner or CEO should decide corporate objectives based on what trends
have led to this point, what resources are available to the organization this
Moving from Vision to Action

year, and what opportunities are open in the market. The objectives cho-
sen should be explained in detail to managers with a focus on why they
are right for the company at this time.

At a separate meeting, managers should have the opportunity to
counter the selected objectives or validate them. Why don™t managers
think they are achievable? What would it take in terms of additional re-
sources to make them achievable? Is the CEO willing to provide those

While the owner or CEO must make the final decision about the annual
objectives, it should only be after lively debate with key managers and
others. It is more likely that the achievements will be met if people agree
with them or at least have an understanding of their formulation.

Reality Check

Corporate objectives must be meaningful to the people responsible for
accomplishing them. Ask yourself these questions to see if your objec-
tives are realistic:

• Do your objectives further the intent of your vision and mission?

• If you completed all of the objectives, would you feel you have
accomplished something that is key for the company™s overall

• Are the objectives realistic within the time frame allotted?

• Are the objectives realistic, given the circumstances of the current

• Are the objectives realistic, given your resources in terms of staff
ability, time, and money?


Once you have determined your vision, mission, and corporate objec-
tives, you must then set into motion more specific plans of action. This
includes defining the person responsible for different aspects of the plan
and assigning specific due dates.
24 Create Your Vision

Action plans are marching orders and provide very specific directions.

This is the essence of employee participation in the planning process.
Some people enjoy the freedom of a blank piece of paper to dream about
what they would like to accomplish. Most, however, just want to know
that they can make a contribution.

Try to make it clear exactly what you”and your managers”want this
exercise to accomplish. Done well, these action plans can become mile-
stones that you use to gauge performance and progress. That goes for in-
dividuals, departments, and the company as a whole.

In many cases, this is an appropriate part of a person™s annual perfor-
mance and compensation review. In other cases, you use them on a project-
specific basis. Because action plans are so straightforward, they™re useful
in almost any managerial context.

Making It Happen

Give each person who works with you all of the material developed so far
(vision, mission, and corporate objectives) and then encourage each to
write his or her own action plans, linking them to specific corporate

These action items should be discussed with the manager who sets the
objectives. They can become part of the employee™s personal goals for the
year, and compensation decisions can be made using accomplishment of
these specific goals as part of the decision process.

There are also objectives within a department or involving more than
one department that can only be met with a team of people. Pick the
team of people, or ask for volunteers, and give them the appropriate
worksheet to use to develop action items as a group.

Some individuals are much more creative verbally than in writing. En-
courage people to sit down with peers from other departments to talk
through the meaning of each objective and how their individual work
can help contribute. Notes taken from these discussions can translate
into meaningful action items.
Moving from Vision to Action

If you establish this process as a credible exercise, your people will tell you
things you might not have thought of before. And if you can tie a person™s
paycheck into what you want them to accomplish, and also make sure they
are recognized for their achievements by their peers, you can almost be
certain that they will meet the objectives that they themselves set.

Once action items are set, negotiate deadlines for completion. Before
they are finally written, deadlines should be agreed on between the
manager and the employee, and interim deadlines should be set if there
are long or complex projects.

Reality Check

Ask each person who is responsible for the action items to help you and
others determine if the action items are appropriate for them. Have them
answer these questions:

• Do these action items work toward meeting the objective set?

• If all the action items under a single objective are met, will the ob-
jective be met?

• Are these action items clear enough to give employees adequate

• Is there any ambiguity about what successful accomplishment

• Is the employee/group committed to getting these things done?

• Does the employee/group think these plans are realistic consid-
ering the current workload?

• Are there adequate resources available to make these action plans


Frontline workers often complain that they™re not told where and how
their efforts fit into the company as a whole. That feeling can be a major
disincentive to effective work and innovation. Take every chance you can
to help your coworkers understand that their contributions make a dif-
ference to the company.
26 Create Your Vision

It is vital to take the vision/mission, corporate objectives, and action
plans out of your head and develop them visually as a communications
tool. You must translate into graphic form the concepts, objectives, and
goals you™ve set out in other exercises.

Pulling together all of the elements from this chapter, we can visually
show how each section draws from the previous to make up our game
plan. It compares different exercises in relation to one another and their
overall importance in the management process. This is a powerful tool
for communicating all of the pieces of the planning cycle to your people
and for letting them see where their work fits into the whole.

Making It Happen

Colorful eye-catching visual communication is inspiring and exciting.
When I was CEO of a publishing company, we tried to be as creative as
we could when we used graphics to represent important business con-
cepts. We tried a number of different methods, from using glass jars and
beads to toy horses on a track to stacks of books.

A graphic can compare statistics or trends that don™t always leap to mind
as relevant but, together, shed insight and understanding on a key busi-
ness function. This kind of graphic tells everyone where he or she fits in
the planning process”usually something companies, especially big
ones, keep trapped in the boardroom.

One of the methods we liked best was to create a wall-size circle and post
it in a common area. In the center, we put the company vision. In the next
concentric circle out, we placed the mission. This was followed by the
corporate objectives. Ultimately, each department and then each individ-
ual was named with his or her own action items. This showed a direct
link between the company™s vision and the individual™s course of action.
Keeping several years of these circles in a conference room reminded us
of how much we had accomplished.

Use your imagination to add color and graphics as appropriate to commu-
nicate your direction to everyone, every day. Encourage people to study
the visual representation”and even have employees and managers cross
off items that have been completed, and date them at companywide meet-
ings. Celebrate each of these significant events. If you can develop a
Moving from Vision to Action

graphic that lives on the computer, it can be changed in real time and
made available to all employees when they wish to see it.

Reality Check

Looking at your visual representation of your vision, mission, objectives,
and action items, consider these questions:

• Do you have a sense of a team pulling in one direction? Do any of
the items you see contradict each other?

• Does this look like a year™s worth of work? Are all of the items
significant and meaningful?

• Are you excited by the work this represents? Does this visual
help you imagine how you will feel when projects are completed?

• Is this document posted in a place where people will find them-
selves and mentally review their progress (and that of their
peers) every day?

W H AT ™ S N E X T

In this chapter, we™ve started our work on a vision for the company
and translating that vision into action. We are still in the planning
stage. We take that planning stage closer to reality in the next chap-
ter on budgeting. Budgeting is planning with dollars and it is
through the budgeting process that we begin to know whether our
vision can be translated into a profitable company.
If you can™t pay for a thing, don™t buy it. If you can™t get
paid for it, don™t sell it.
”Benjamin Franklin

O ne of the most grueling parts of running a small business is budget-

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