It’s common for executives to be hyperfocused on very short term results. Focusing on quarters, months, even weeks cuts big work down into bite-sized pieces which means that they’re much more likely to get accomplished.
The problem is, you might be stabbing your future in the back.
If you’re so focused on short-term goals that you’re ignoring what is best over the long run, or in some cases even actively working against long term success, you’re actually creating an unsustainable business culture.
Obviously, you can’t simply set a vision for a decade or even a year down the road and then just hope for success. And everyone knows that long-term goals are only executed by “eating the elephant” piece by piece.
The problem isn’t the size of the goal, really. It’s the lack of alignment.
Alignment is the key to success now AND later
There is no problem focusing on near-term goals and setting short-term goals to complete them. The real issue is when organizations compromise on their long term goals, or their stated ideological foundation (if they have one), in order to improve near term results.
Think about taking a short-cut to please someone tomorrow, even if that means knowing that you are very unlikely to sustain that route. You probably also know that it will let them down in the following week, month or year.
When you start knowingly compromising your long term success for quick hits to appease the needs for near-term wins, that is when you start running into problems. It is very difficult to escape this vortex once you get into it, because you’re just thinking about the next quick win to get to the next one, and on and on.
Short-term priorities that are aligned with long-term goals ensure that you are chipping away at big goals and serving your purpose in alignment with all of your stakeholders.
The Value of a Purpose Statement
This situation also results in a complete lack of ability or interest in thinking about the broader purpose of the organization and whether or not your priorities are aligned with that purpose. A purpose statement is how an organization answers the question “Why are you here?”. The answer to that question can’t simply be profit, it needs to be more deeply meaningful and impactful to have any benefit. Being purpose-driven creates a “true north” that allows a group of people to test their priorities against. Building on that, a system of values provides additional layers of a framework to determine if the way you are going about your business, how you are behaving, is aligned with the belief system of the organization. Too often, purpose statement are either entirely missing, or are so generic that they are meaningless. Additionally, even when purpose statements have been carefully crafted, they are often simple messages on a board room wall or annual report that don’t “come to life” on a daily basis in an organization. Leadership needs to make these ideological pillars come to life by incorporating them into all aspects of their work.
The core ideology of an organization is foundational and allows for long term thinking to be aligned with this belief system. From there, you can align your medium and shorter-term priorities.
Finally, it is important to note that situations do arise in business and in life where you realize your longer-term goals have to be put on the backburner to address an immediate challenge – perhaps there is a major problem with a team member’s health, a client project, or some kind of economic or environmental challenge that is well out of your control. In those situations, you do need to focus more on triage than on long-term alignment, but that is not to say that you completely dispense with your belief system and long term goals. You focus on the imminent crisis but still think and talk about the ideology and long term goals, and after you get through whatever storm you’re battling through, you realign. Leadership must continue to talk about the ideology and long term goals, even when in the near term you are acting towards a very different set of priorities.
When you build a culture around a core ideology rooted in purpose and values, craft a compelling long term vision, and then align your shorter-term objectives with that ideology and vision, stakeholders of all varieties more naturally come together. In comparison when you are simply looking at short-term goals and only giving lip service to longer-term thinking and deeply rooted cultural ideals, stakeholders very quickly diverge in their interests and conflict ensues.
At Blue Cypress, we believe in building a culture rooted in purpose with behavior aligned through values. We believe that long term vision that is tightly linked to near term priorities and a continual, open, clear, and objective assessment of what is happening are all key elements to connecting our stakeholders. Our individual family members all represent their own purpose, values and vision in unique ways. What is consistent across our family is the desire to drive an impact through purposeful business which creates durable alignment amongst all our stakeholders.