One Degree of Failure -

Getting Beyond Strategic Planning

"If you don't know where you are going, you will end up some place else."
- Yogi Berra, Professional Baseball Player

Two toddlers are observed looking into their future talking to one another about what they see.  The second one (the passive more thoughtful one) says to the first one (the more dominate one) “But I don’t see which way we should go; there seems to be so many paths ahead of us with obstacles all along the way.”  How do we know if we are heading in the right direction?  The first one looking at the same thing says “I don’t know either.  But after we make our first million then we can decide which way to go and who we will grow up to be”.

Many people and many businesses approach their lives and their work the way these toddlers will approach their futures.  Since they never develop plans for how they see their lives unfolding they must adlib their way to their future based on what happens today.  The problem with improvising your way through life is you never know what improvisation you will need next so you never know what the end result will be.  It’s difficult to achieve and sustain consistent success this way.

Planning is fundamental to achieving lasting success.  Few people will ever strike it rich playing the lottery; and few businesses will ever attain ultimate success by pursuing the ultimate goal.  Most people and most businesses will have to achieve success the old fashioned way – by hard work.  And hard work without sound plans is but toil.Any person, leader or business that does not plan well is likely to be someone who does not execute well.

So why don’t people or businesses really plan as they should?  Well I could give you the 10 top reasons; maybe even the 20 top reasons.  But it all comes down to one simple thing.  We don’t plan because we are too eager to set goals for what we want to do.  And in setting our ultimate goals we typically do not count the cost for what happens if we do not achieve our goal.  There is no real consequence or penalty for failing to achieve – after all – we gave it our best.   Goals without plans that describe the overall cost for failure or benefits for success are your slow road to failure; they are your path to one degree of failure.  It is almost impossible for you to notice you are on the wrong path when you are just one degree off from where you think you want to be.  But one degree of misdirection over time and distance and speed can lead to major failures in reaching your intended destinations.

So what can you do to change your course?  Well when the train has already departed the station and it cannot return, the only way to change its course is to get out front and redirect the direction of the tracks.  If you want make certain you are not on the path to one degree of failure you must:

  • Discover who you are before you set goals for what you want to do; when a million dollars makes you the person you are then you will always have to have a million dollars to remain who you come to be;  
  • Plan to pursue things for your life and business which you know you can achieve transformational success; an elephant can never live comfortably in the home of a giraffe – the accommodations will never work no matter if that is the ultimate goal of the elephant;
  • Create a vision for your life and business; vision helps you see how things should unfold.  When you have no vision failure lives just beneath the goals you pursue and;
  • Plan to measure your success by how well you fulfill your purpose and live your vision; it is more what you do with the results of achieving a goal than achieving the goal itself that is the real measure of your success.

Most people and businesses push back at the idea of planning because it means the need to change behaviors.  Mention plans and business people tend to think time spent and time wasted sitting on their hands. The idea of a plan seems limiting to them; they have been successful because they learned to act quickly and decisively.  Successful people everywhere understand that when you do not plan the best you can do is to adlib you way through life and business.  And this puts you on the path of one degree of failure with no way of knowing how to correct yourself.