I am not a big fan of setting goals or targets at the best of times. They create two fundamental problems:
The New Year disease
So what to do at this time of resolutions and annual budgets? You could join the crowd and make a full blown plan. If you must, this short article from Fred Wilson on Planning for Next Year is a good guide to the principles.
And as Fred points out, if you want to develop a proper annual plan you would start in September. In other words planning is a complex process not just a way of capturing your post holiday guilt trip. The great military leaders have always understood this:
"No plan survives contact with the enemy."
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”
In other words, if you want to make plan establish a process. Set aside proper time for thinking, analysis and discussion. Develop a set of goals that are support by data and argument as well as passion.
This is not something that can be accomplished over a couple of days New Year holiday. So don't start 2017 with a blast of goal setting. I would like to offer a different approach. Think about this one question:
What would you like to change?
Its not an original question. I first started thinking about back in 2007. That year the firm I worked for used it as the centrepiece of a marketing campaign. The beautiful challenge lay in the infinite variety of responses. Take two simple examples from that campaign:
At the time, we commissioned a series of essays in the FT on the topic. Then Deputy Editor Martin Dickson wrote a piece. In it he expressed a wish for the press to behave better and to be better regarded. He headed it with this quote:
“You cannot hope to bribe or twist, Thanks God! The British journalist. But seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s ’s no occasion to.”
By contrast, each of us had to stick a poster on our office door stating our own answer to the simple question. Mine read:
“I would like the people of Scotland to go out into the world with confidence and ambition once again.”
Either of these responses would stand up well as an aspiration today. Yet both are also personal and just a little bit odd. Answering this question is a good time for your inner geek to show.
So these answers may not fit your circumstances or way of thinking about the world. No matter. The question is designed just to make you think. How could your business or life be different? And also how could you make a difference to others?
Your answer may already be the guiding light for your life. Or a small change that requires only a bit of active willpower to deliver. Or a way of capturing the vision for your business and the difference it can make in the world.
The Chairman's view
The purpose of this post is simple. Instead of setting goals or making resolutions, start the year with a little reflection. Think about hope, ambition and direction. That could lead to changes and plans. Or just help you draw you new energy and focus for the challenge ahead.
We all have it in our hands to make a difference in 2017. How will you use that power?
Kenny Fraser is the Director of Sunstone Communication and a personal investor in startups.