Now before you race off at full speed to get started, let’s take a few minutes to discuss what you're really doing here. We have all heard the saying “look before you leap” and starting up a new venture of any kind should be no different. Whilst over-planning, or guessing as I prefer to call it, can certainly get in the way and dumb down your actual “doing” efforts, it's important to realise that a delicate balance is needed here. Planning does not have to take long, and you need not undertake lengthy analysis to get started, but performing a little due diligence in the initial stages will pay dividends in the long-term.
Before you get down to the business of getting stuck in, let's take a look at five simple things you need to define upfront. Being clear about these will save you a whole lot of pain and suffering later on down the line. I guarantee it.
Why are you doing what you are doing? – What is your purpose and mission? Most businesses know what they are doing, some businesses know how they do it, but few can articulate the why with any real conviction. When asked, “Why do you do what you do?” many entrepreneurs will answer, “to drive revenue”, “increase profits” or “growth”. While these metrics are of course highly valuable to the day-to-day survival of a business, they are in fact outputs and consequences of delivering “what you do and why”. Knowing why you're doing what you're doing is to be clear about what you do to improve the world of your customers and clients, not what you receive as a result of doing so.
What is it that you’re setting out to achieve? - In short, what are your objectives, outcomes and desired results? Defining your key objectives, outcomes and results before you start is critically important for a number of reasons:
#1 - They define what success looks like.
#2 - They expose your success criteria.
#3 - They provide the key indicators needed to measure your progress against your defined milestones and, more importantly, provide the guidance needed to adjust your course and direction along the way when needed.
#4 - It’s all too easy to get distracted by the “noise” so having a clear view of what you are aiming for, and knowing what needs to be done to get there, ensures that you remain action oriented and focused on work that contributes and progresses you towards those outcomes and results. It’s far easier to remain focused when you know what’s important to focus on.
#5 - Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will know when you have reached the end.
Define Your Strategy - Defining what you are going to achieve from an outcome and result perspective is the first stage of any successful project implementation. The second stage is developing your strategy for getting there. Your strategy is your high-level plan of action. In simple terms it details the end result and desired future state, alongside the high-level detail needed to get there.
Define Your Tactics – Tactics focus on the actual “in flight” step by step mechanics of what you will need to do on a day-to-day basis to go from where you are today to the desired future state. It's important to note that many new entrepreneurs incorrectly use the terms strategy and tactics interchangeably, when in fact they are subtly different. I find the easiest way to differentiate between strategy and tactics is to look at how battles are planned and fought. The strategy is the “what”. The strategy lays out the plan of what is going to be achieved, when and under what conditions. Strategy happens before the battle commences. Tactics on the other hand are the actual steps and actions needed to deliver the strategic outcome and importantly are carried out during the battle itself. Tactics are much more dynamic than strategies and are liable to change “in-flight” during the execution of the strategy. That's not to say that strategies don't need to be regularly evaluated, changed or tweaked along the way dependent upon changing conditions. As a general rule though, once defined, overall strategic outcomes tend to be much more fixed.
Define Your Capability – Once you have defined your why (challenge), the what (strategy) and the how (tactics), your next important task is to identify the capability you have right now to deliver the desired outcomes and results, measured against those capabilities that will need to be developed or acquired in future. It's not necessarily important at this point to get bogged down with the nitty gritty of upskilling or filling knowledge gaps, but it's really important to know what is missing early on so that you can start developing a solid plan for filling those key areas effectively. Once again this is another reason why it's so imperative that you have your objectives, outcomes and results well defined in advance. Doing so makes identifying key capability requirements so much easier, with far less risk of missing out something essential. So many startups overlook the importance of this stage and then discover later down the line they are missing essential capabilities that prove to be showstoppers. I cannot stress enough how important it is to know in advance what your impediments to progress are. These “blocking” elements can often cause lengthy delays in your progress at best, and in the worst case will bring your fledgling startup to a premature end.
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