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Why It’s Good You Didn’t Review Your Consulting Firm’s Goals Today

Maybe you scanned your business bucket list this morning, or maybe you glanced at your consulting firm’s annual goals last Monday… or maybe not. Does it matter? Of course. Let’s talk about the right time to review your goals.

Is there a right time to be responsive to your clients? Yes: any time you’re working. Is there a right time to eat chocolate? Yes: any time you’re awake. Is there a right time to review your consulting firm’s long-term, strategic goals? Yes—but it’s tricky to figure out.

When it comes to the cadence of reviewing dreams, long-term goals, short-term goals, and smokin’ hot immediate-term fires, one rhythm doesn’t suit everyone.

Still, it may be helpful to see how other consultants and firms dance this timing tango. Therefore, I’ll share my team’s approach, but I’d like to hear how frequently you review your goals too. We’ll learn from each other.

(No doubt some highly-trained, project-management pros will chime in advice on proven processes such as scrums or scrambles or scribbles. I’m not versed in any of those… well, maybe in scribbles.)

First, a few observations:

  • Long-term goals must be revisited, lest they be forgotten or crowded out by short term fires.
  • If long-term goals are revisited too often, especially without meaningful progress between visits, their power to inspire excitement and action dissipates. Like the art on your wall, if you see it every day, you stop noticing it.
  • A goal that appears unreasonably large, confusingly vague or downright daunting, can deter action.
  • A goal that includes chocolate is more likely to be achieved.
  • Small achievements accelerate progress toward large achievements

In keeping with those observations, my team’s goal horizons are daily, weekly, monthly, annually and epic dreams.

Daily – Every evening, my assistant and I set my priorities for the next day. We do that by looking at the burning fires and our weekly priorities. We don’t look further out than weekly.

Weekly – Monday mornings the whole team commits to our crucial results for the week. To inform our commitments we review our list of high-priority projects, which don’t change from week to week. Where is that list housed? Our quarterly plan.

Monthly – When the first Monday of the month rolls around, it’s our cue to take a peek at our quarterly plan. Are we on track? Do we need to turn up the heat on any priority projects? Which of the priority projects will take center stage for the coming month?

The answers to those questions define our list of priority projects for the month.

Quarterly – Four Mondays a year we revisit our strategy. These crucial Mondays we remind ourselves of our full-year ambitions, abandon projects that are falling short and create new, priority projects inspired by our progress and learning over the previous three months. The overarching question is: What must we accomplish to meet or exceed our annual goals?

Finally, since our list of priority projects cascades down to the weekly conversations, after we define the priority projects for the quarter we also outline the progress we expect each of the next three months.

Annually – Once a year we do the same thing you do: jump into a hot tub filled with bubbling, coconut custard. No, that’s not it. We translate our epic dreams into goals for the coming year. Often, I bring in an advisor or strategic wizard who can challenge our assumptions, stretch our thinking, and fire up our ambitions.

Epic Dreams – Big ideas are in plentiful supply. Every book I devour and every consultant I chat with sparks an ambitious vision. For entrepreneurs like us, every big, new idea is a siren song, luring us to abandon our plans and embark on a new adventure.

They key is setting those tempting dreams aside until the next quarterly review, at earliest. Great ideas will survive a short incubation period.

That’s our approach. In a nutshell, we revisit our dreams annually and our annual goals quarterly. Everything else is tactical implementation.

What’s your cadence for reviewing goals? If you’re an expert in a project management methodology, you’re bound to have a strong opinion. I look forward to reading it.


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15 Comments
  1. Robin Goldsmith
    October 4, 2017 at 9:31 am Reply

    Good advice as usual! For goals to be effective, they need to be internalized and believed emotionally and logically. That’s what makes them keep guiding behavior even when not in the forefront of consciousness. Goals that are too large can offer a convenient unconscious excuse for failure unless they are coupled with a suitable series of smaller, shorter-term goals that reliably lead to accomplishing the bigger goal. Going to the moon was a pretty big goal that got accomplished because it continued to provide overall motivation for all the many sub-goals that together enabled achievement.

    • David A. Fields
      October 4, 2017 at 9:46 am Reply

      An overarching, “part of something bigger” goal is a motivator for most people, and the space race of the 1960s is definitely a good example of that.

      Your statement about goals being believed emotionally is interesting to me because strong emotions tend to be fleeting. That’s part of why I’ve observed the power of a goal to inspire excitement can diminish if it’s reviewed too frequently.

      Great input, as always, Robin.

  2. Robin Goldsmith
    October 4, 2017 at 9:35 am Reply

    BTW, speaking of space, though I haven’t heard anything about it on the news today, this is the 60th anniversary of USSR’s launching Sputnik.

    • David A. Fields
      October 4, 2017 at 9:50 am Reply

      возгласы!

  3. Scott McClymonds
    October 4, 2017 at 3:01 pm Reply

    Great reminder David, and I like the structure you have. Very helpful. Thank you.

    • David A. Fields
      October 4, 2017 at 5:13 pm Reply

      My pleasure, Scott. Let me know how you decide to set up the cadence for yourself and your firm, and how it works out.

  4. Simon James
    October 4, 2017 at 3:29 pm Reply

    Reminds me of Brian Moran’s “The 12 Week Year”, which is pretty much how I envisaged operating once I start getting clients.

    • David A. Fields
      October 4, 2017 at 5:15 pm Reply

      That particular structure is not one I’m familiar with; however it has an intriguing title, and if it helps you keep your short- and long-term goals balanced, it’s a good system.

  5. Debbie G
    October 5, 2017 at 12:35 pm Reply

    One nuance to consider…. In your case, you have a team which provides emotional encouragement, accountability, and ideas for when someone gets stuck. For solo entrepreneurs, it can be helpful to think through ways to accomplish these things without a formal “team” structure.

    • David A. Fields
      October 5, 2017 at 7:01 pm Reply

      You make a fair point, Debbie, and I would suggest a couple of considerations:

      First, even as a “solo entrepreneur” you should have a part-time administrative person on your team. At a minimum, that person is helping you keep your CRM up to date and handling administrivia like pulling together expense reports. When you review your daily and weekly goals, that person can be a help, too.

      Second, the cadence described above works well if you’re on your own. The heart of this is less about the number of people and more about how often you’re reviewing short-and long-term goals. If it doesn’t work for you, though, I’d definitely like to here that and understand why.

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