Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fear of Commitment


One of the things that continues to perplex me about both individual people and corporations is why the idea of strategy and long term goals are so intimidating. The more experienced I get, the more I've come to realize that running a successful team, organization, or company boils down to three key actions:
  • Find and keep passionate, talented people
  • Define your purpose so you know why you do what you do
  • Clearly outline a strategy so you know where you are going

These seem to me to be obvious and they might be to others as well. The first two, talent and purpose, are areas where companies at least seem to make some efforts (note I didn't say successful efforts) through talent management programs and mission statements. But, I am continually surprised by how few organizations spend the time to have well-defined strategies. Likewise, I seem to encounter very few people on a day to day basis who know where they want to be professionally in 3 years, let alone 10 or more. So, my question is why?

My theory is that it isn't safe to set long range goals. As an individual, if I set a long range goal or strategy and communicate that to others, I'm now bound to make my best efforts to go achieve that. If I fail, I'll have some explaining to do. However, if I don't set long range goals, when I arrive at where ever I end up down the road, I can rationalize that it was where I wanted to be all along. No goals, no explaining, no failure. I think the same thing happens with groups of people. No big goals, no big failures, no explaining to do.

On top of this, setting strategy and long range goals takes work. It's not easy if it's done well. It requires asking tough questions and making some decisions that we'd rather put off.

Have you experienced the same thing, Joe? If so, what is your theory?


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