Begin with the End in Mind

Welcome to 2020.

January is the time for resolutions. It’s always a good idea to give some thought to what your goals are for the coming year as well as to help your staff/colleagues review theirs. We’ve all heard that if we fail to plan, plan to fail. A key factor in success is to determine process goals based on the desired outcome. That is, to begin with the end in mind.

We can pick a goal which may be specific, measurable, and achievable; but if that goal isn’t going to move us in the direction of our ultimate objective, it may be counterproductive to pursue. For example, if our business year objective is to develop our commercial production in a specific industry, then scheduling multiple, monthly or weekly training sessions with personal lines carriers may not be a worthwhile goal. Achieving a positive outcome is more likely where a bigger objective is conceived, then all smaller goals structured to align with the larger interest.

We may have suffered through a presentation in the past wondering what the speaker was trying to get at. What’s their point? What are they aiming at? In reading comprehension tests, we may jump to the questions being asked prior to reading. When we have a reason, a purpose, an aim, then we can approach the reading with greater attention and focus. We can read with the end in mind. It helps us get to the meat of the matter.

In golf, what’s the point, the aim? We’re trying to put the ball in the hole. Consider the difference in approach between amateur and seasoned golfers to a given hole. The typical amateur ascribes to what the King of Hearts says to Alice, “Begin at the beginning,” the King of Hearts said to Alice, “and go on till you come to the end.” They will stride up to the tee with a club that will allow them to hit the ball the furthest, usually the driver. They will give little thought to where the green is.

This can be contrasted with a skilled player who is more likely to first look at the green and where the pin is placed on the green. They’ll then make a determination of where the best place will be to land the ball on the green in order to increase the chances at a par or birdie. From there they will determine what is needed to get the ball to the desired area on the green with their approach shot. How far from the green do I want to take my approach shot from? What part of the fairway do I want to be on, the left, centre, or right for my approach shot? Only after these steps will they consider what the best club to use will be in order to allow them to place the ball from the tee to the desired approach shot location. In short, they will play the hole backwards or begin with the end in mind. The decision of what club to use from the tee is made not based on where they are, but on where they want to go, where they want to end up.

Golf’s most accomplished player, Jack Nicklaus, has said “I never hit a shot, even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head, it’s like a color movie. First, I ‘see’ the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up high on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes and I ‘see’ the ball going there; its path, trajectory, and shape, even its behaviour on landing.”

Essentially, we’re starting with the question “Where am I going?” then asking “How am I going to get there?” Investing energy first determining where we want to go, then assessing where we’re starting from will help us develop and detail what plan we need to put in place.

How can this help us in our work day? By knowing and focusing on our larger objective, our work year can be designed to best serve the larger objective. We can set quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily objectives which steadily build towards the full year goal.

For example, if our goal is to target additional premium volume of $1,000,000 in 2020 focusing on the Widget Manufacturing Industry in Manitoba, we can be quite confident time spent developing expertise and understanding of changes to auto insurance sales regulations won’t be necessary. Knowing where we want to go will help narrow our focus towards meaningful and aligned outcomes such as:

  • Identifying 2-4 markets which have both expertise and appetite for the class of business we’re targeting.
  • Developing relationships with each of the identified markets with the goal of being able to distribute their product.
  • Developing a list of customers that participate in the targeted industry.
  • Identify risk management responsibility at each prospective customer.
  • Identify relevant industry trade shows, publications, other marketing methods to get in front of targeted market.
  • Develop internal training for selected sales staff to help them understand the key features of targeted market’s industry.
  • Develop presentation materials/marketing brochures for targeted market.
  • Detail sales development plan. Responsibility for who will contact whom, when, and what meetings are targeted, etc.
  • Execute above and revise based on feedback.

There may be other steps one would choose to insert in place of some of the above or the ordering of the above may be rearranged to suit your purposes, but the guiding principle is that the desired outcome, the final objective, is what drives the decision of the preceding steps. First, we must know where we want to go before we get in the car and start driving or decide to walk.

Quotes to Consider:

There is one practice that many of those who accomplish great things will admit they have indulged in, especially during their leaner years. They were able to picture themselves, vividly, having already attained their goals, and they retained that image in their minds constantly, assuring themselves again and again that they knew they would succeed. -Dr. Marcus Bach-

Fix your course upon a star and you can navigate any storm. –Leonardo Da Vinci-