Planning for the new year – Part 1 (Guidepost Statements)

Avoid detours: Smash your 2022 goals by following your guidepost statement

Halloween may be over, but for many organizations, the scariest time of year has just begun. As we march toward December 31st, we scramble to deliver on our goals for the current year. For many of us, it’s busy, it’s rushed, and often hard to keep straight what needs to be done next. It hardly seems like the right time to deliberately plan strategic initiatives that will support and elevate long-term business goals, but if not now, when?

Planning ahead is crucial in business, whether it’s laying out kicking off a new initiative or being part of a multi-year transformation journey. While leaders often specify the destination, they can forget to provide the details of the journey.

Starting the journey

When you start a journey, it is critical to know where you want to go. But as important is how you want to get there. This becomes more complex when you are traveling in a group with different abilities, from different starting locations. How can you ensure that everyone arrives at the destination, safe and sound, excited for the next stop on the journey? How do you keep some of your group from getting lost along the way?

At the start of any new endeavor, it’s important to identify a “guidepost” statement that serves as the North Star for your team. While a vision statement speaks to your ultimate goal, and a mission statement describes the tasks that help you get there, the guidepost statement encapsulates your team’s #1 priority. It helps them answer the question “What should I do now?” when they are challenged during their workday. When they feel lost, the guidepost statement will send them in the right direction.

For example, let’s say we’re talking about an actual group excursion. First you decide where you’re going: Bangalore? Boston? Brisbane? You must choose one because each sets your team off in a different direction. But once you’ve chosen your destination, there are many considerations around how you get there. How will you measure the success of your trip? Are we talking about getting two people there? Or two hundred? Getting there the fastest way possible? Sometime in the next twelve months? Within a certain (tight) budget? Money no object? These details (guidelines and guardrails) help frame where you want to go and what’s important along the way (measures).

Guideposts for startups or leaders new to an organization

For a startup or for leaders new to an organization, creating a guidepost statement is one of the most powerful things you can do. Your guidepost statement is the reason you exist. In this case, the guidepost is what the department/team does. You have an opportunity to work with other groups to make sure that they too agree with what you are setting out as the prime directive of your team.

One SVP we worked with chose as her team’s guidepost, “Own the post-sales customer technical experience.” This was clear and helped the team figure out what they were responsible for. It clarified what the team did vis a vis the Customer Success and Sales team. It also allowed the CIO to understand why the new SVP’s team was getting assertive about prioritizing the customer portal, which was historically under the purview of the IT department.

Guideposts if you are kicking off a new initiative

I have also found the guidepost statement very useful if you are kicking off an initiative. And these do not have to be mutually exclusive. You can have a guidepost only for an initiative, only for your organization’s mission, or one for each.

For an intelligent swarming initiative, a client decided, “If new issues require further collaboration beyond our standard support process, we will use knowledge-first intelligent swarming to reduce time to resolve and reduce team effort to get customer issues resolved.”

Fairly early in the initiative, the implementation team wanted to add “backlog” to the scope of what fell under “beyond our standard support process.” However, we walked them back from this. You see, backlog is a ‘case hygiene’ issue: it smells, but it belongs to an existing case, not a new case, and their guidepost clearly stated knowledge-first intelligent swarming was meant for new cases.

Here’s what you can do:

As you prepare for the year ahead, identify your top three initiatives for 2022. Then, create a guidepost for each statement, to guide your team in the right direction throughout their day-to-day responsibilities. Finally, go one step further and create measures for each guidepost: How will your team know they are following their guidepost? All the measures you put in place for your initiatives should provide them with the answer to that question.

Need help identifying the right guidepost and measures? Get in touch, even if it is for an informal chat (we are happy to pay it forward). We have online training, workshops, and accelerator programs that will help you with your 2022 journey and beyond, from the first step through to when your team reaches the promised destination.

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