How to Get From Here to Where You Want to Go
When Roger Bannister
was attempting to become the first athlete to break the four-minute
mile, all the “experts” told him it was impossible. Some even
suggested he risked death by pushing his body beyond human limits.
Of course, we now know that not only did Bannister not die, but the
week after he broke the barrier, another runner followed in his
footsteps, followed shortly thereafter by several more.
sub-four minute mile wasn’t impossible; someone just had to envision
doing it. When asked how he accomplished the feat, Bannister
replied, “Physiologically impossible or not, I just saw myself doing
it.” To this day, many Olympic athletes use this type of success
visioning to achieve their goals. The difference in skill
levels at premier levels is often not discernible. What differs is
the mindset, the clarity of vision on what winning looks like.
Leaders and managers
don’t often employ this approach in strategic planning, or even in
simple delegation today. Most of us are running so fast, we don’t
take the time to get clear on winning; we just run and hope we are
on the right track, running the right race. But organizations are
now beginning to understand what world-class athletes have long
known - if you can picture the destination and get clear on what
winning looks like, your chances of getting there dramatically
One tool for painting a vivid picture of where your
organization needs to go is destination modeling. Designed to
create powerful visions in the mind of each and every employee,
destination statements provide cohesion, direction and behavioral
guidance. They tell people what you are doing, what you are not
doing, and what you will be doing when you get to where you want to
develop one over-arching destination statement for the entire
company. I find it more useful to develop a number of statements,
or destination points, for each critical area of the
organization. In fact, I often use these statements as a starting
point when working with clients.
destination statement categories include:
achievements (the big three or four).
workplace culture will be, including attitudes, beliefs, values
and operating principles.
knowledge and abilities will exist in the organization? In each
organizational structures will be in place, company-wide and at
each business unit?
processes and metrics will be used?
systems and technologies will be necessary, both internally and
will be in the market? What products will be in development?
Who will our
customers be? How many will we have?
Who will our
competitors be? What type of companies will we compete against?
What will be our
greatest competitive advantage? Our biggest threat?
How will we be
What will our
Remember, your goal
as a leader or manager is to paint as vivid and rich a ‘picture’ of
success or winning as you possibly can. To create your company’s
destination points, draw a vertical line down the middle of a sheet
of paper. On the left side, put all the categories listed above and
any others you come up with. On the right side, describe for each
category what it will look like when you get to where you want to
A few short years or
even months ago, companies frequently looked out five and even 10
years into the future. In today’s fast-paced world, three years
makes more sense. Recently, all of my clients are doing one-year
destination modeling and plans. The rate of change today is so
great that anything beyond that and you are likely just wildly
guessing as to what is possible.
Once you have identified your destination points,
measure each one against the following criteria:
Is it consistent with the mission statement (the why you exist)?
Is it easy to understand? Is it easy to tell what is in and
what is out? Does it tell you what you need to do
Does it provide enough details to initiate a level of
measurement? Does it paint a picture employees can relate to
and a place they can envision?
Is it flexible enough to include evolving business needs?
Does it make you feel proud to be part of the effort?
Does it compel you to want to go there?
Once you have
clarity on your destination points, repeat the process (using the
same categories) to define your current state. This will identify
any gaps that need to be addressed and enable you to plan
appropriate action steps and time frames. Always start with the end
state and then compare to current reality. When you work from the
end state backwards, the likelihood of you getting there increases
Getting Clear on the
As you go through the process of creating your
destination points, keep in mind that clarity of language is
essential for ensuring that people are looking at the same picture.
People often use the same words to describe very different things,
and if you’re not careful you can end up with many different
pictures rather then one unifying vision.
For example, I once
worked in a company that proudly described itself as “best in
class.” When employees were surveyed, however, more than half said
they had no idea what that meant or how to work toward it. And the
employees who thought they knew had very diverse opinions on what
the phrase meant. As a result, “best in class” looked good on the
boardroom wall, but it meant nothing to most employees and did not
serve to guide behavior or lead people toward the ultimate
destination. This doesn’t mean you can’t use phrases like “best in
class.” Just be sure to define them in ways that are clear,
objective and measurable so that everyone knows exactly what they
To get the best of
what your employees have to offer, your organization’s future needs
to be more compelling than the past. Picturing your destination and
describing it in vivid language will make it easier and much more
likely your organization will achieve its goals and break its own
four-minute mile. Especially as businesses begin to recover and
reset for a different (and hopefully better) economy, it is critical
you are clear on where you are now going, why you will still win and
what it looks like when you get there!
Read other articles and learn more about
Holly G. Green.
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