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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Ambitious goals for your company? 14 secrets to building the workflows to reach them

To accomplish a challenging goal, you’ve got to have the right game plan for your team.

Ambitious goals for your company? 14 secrets to building the workflows to reach them
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

It’s one thing to have an ambitious goal; it’s another to have an effective game plan to ensure that goal is reached. Big goals are achieved through smart—sometimes small—habits. If a leader is to guide their team to the top of the mountain, they have to blaze a clear trail and give their people the tools they need to climb.

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It doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all solution; leaders can leverage the right combination of strategies to fit their organization’s unique purpose, procedures, and people. To get your ideas flowing, a panel of Fast Company Executive Board members has shared their best strategies for turning lofty goals into realities. Follow their advice to build efficient workflows that foster repeatable, scalable success.

1. CONDUCT A GAP ANALYSIS.

Define the current state and the desired future state. Such an initiative requires a gap analysis and can be painful for those who predate your arrival, so it’s essential to keep that dynamic in mind and avoid the ever-popular blame game. Once that’s done, everything must align with the organization’s values, goals, and mission as a whole. – Will Conaway, The HCI Group (A Tech Mahindra Company)

2. MAKE SURE YOU’RE BEING REALISTIC.

I see a lot of real estate investors through our programs, and as I talk to them, I often notice that they have audacious goals that are too far out there. I motivate them to be realistic and create a plan of action they can act upon accordingly. Then, do it over and over to establish a track record. There are paradigms to advise; it depends on who the person is on the other end. – Lane Kawaoka, SimplePassiveCashflow.com

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3. CREATE A CLEAR ROADMAP WITH ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES.

All major goals should be broken down into a clear roadmap that assigns responsibilities and subgoals to the appropriate person or team, along with deadlines to reach those goals and regular check-ins for accountability and resolving unexpected issues. Depending on the goal size, the roadmap may need to be broken down monthly, quarterly, or even weekly to ensure consistent progress toward the goal. – Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC

4. DON’T ASSUME YOUR FIRST PLAN IS THE FINAL ONE.

Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Don’t assume that your first plan will be your best. Every punch you take should be a learning experience that alters both your strategy and tactics. The bigger your goal, the more times you will have to change course along the way. – Alex Husted, HELPSY

5. LET EACH TEAM FIND THEIR STRIDE.

A smart, repeatable process is awesome, but great people trump a great process every time. Focus on building teams of inventive, collaborative people. Give them a modern, agile process, certainly. But then step back and let each team find their stride and create in their own slightly individual way. In the end, only the quality of the final product matters, not the process used to get there. – Barry Fiske, LiveArea

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6. REWARD ONLY WHAT ALIGNS WITH YOUR OBJECTIVES.

Look for unintended consequences. What are you rewarding that is not directly aligned to the goal? People do what gives them praise, status, benefit, and satisfaction. Make sure you measure and reward what matters in service to your objectives. – Chris Shipley, CR Strategy Partners

7. HAVE THE TEAM PROVIDE REGULAR PROGRESS UPDATES.

First, make sure you have the right people on your team—those who have both the expertise for the task and the motivation for reaching ambitious goals. Then, every week, ask the team to rate their overall progress and have them reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to improve the following week. Through continued accountability, proactive action, and learning, we can achieve success. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

8. ENSURE YOUR OWN ACCOUNTABILITY.

Begin with simple things: Don’t multitask during meetings. Block out an hour to turn off your phone and work on your biggest priority. Create systems that force you to be accountable. – Ryan Anderson, Filevine

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9. LOOK FOR A PROVEN SYSTEM.

For small and midsize businesses, the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) introduced in Gino Wickman’s book, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, provides a simple, effective framework for running virtually any business. Similarly, using an open-book management system like the one described in Jack Stack’s The Great Game of Business is an excellent way to engage your team in company goals. Don’t try to build these systems yourself from scratch! – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

10. LEVERAGE PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE.

Project management software allows each team member to clearly understand which aspects of a project they own. It ensures collaboration and creates organization. You’ll also want to have an effective project manager who’s tracking your progress. The manager can also advise you on your progression and any potential obstacles that may prevent you from achieving your goals. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

11. “REVERSE ENGINEER” YOUR PROCESS.

Reaching your goal is quite simple, actually. I often refer to the “reverse engineering” process. This is a sequence in which you identify what the goal is and what steps need to happen (in reverse order) to obtain said goal. By doing this, you’ll not only identify exactly what needs to happen, but the action items will become easier as you segment them into tiny steps. Do it in reverse to get there. – Benjamin Nader, 6 Figure Recruiter

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12. DOCUMENT YOUR WORK.

The most important thing you can do to create repeatable workflows that meet goals is to document your work. This underestimated but powerful task includes creating and tracking KPIs as well as writing down how a task should be done. Over time, such documentation serves to show you what works and what doesn’t. You’ll also avoid repeating mistakes while creating a reference point for your team. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

13. RECOGNIZE SMALL WINS.

Break goals into smaller, achievable wins to keep your team positive and motivated. Wins, no matter the size, help keep everyone pushing. Recognize success and motivate your team in the process. – Brad Burns, Wayne Contracting

14. PARE DOWN YOUR PROCESSES.

Remove bottlenecks. Look for every place in the flow where a step, person, or asset can be removed, and pare, pare, pare. – Esther Kestenbaum Prozan, Ruby Has Fulfillment

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