The Importance of Starting with an End in Mind

Commuting towards the office 🚙, how many of us have got our working day planned?

Very few!

We are happy with the illusion of walking fast, not caring to know whether the road we have taken is the right one or not.

Only two days in our lives, we do not get to live the full quota. Every other day is 24 hours long.  But because we do not often have any goal in sight, we end up wasting this very powerful resource called time.

What if we always worked with an end in mind? Think Brandon Stanton for example. He worked with the end goal of photographing 📸 10,000 people on the New York streets. He met with resistance. Who doesn’t? And see where Humans of New York is today. Incredibly popular, isn’t it?

All this because Stanton had this “clicking 10,000 people” goal in mind. Right from the outset! Yes! 

In hindsight, we almost always feel we have been shortchanged out of a good outcome. What, though, we never reflect upon is our lack of planning, lack of clarity of vision, absence of an END GOAL in mind.

Let me make something clear here. In having an end goal in mind, I don’t mean- not a bit- that we should start with giant steps. Stanton wouldn’t obviously have thought of photographing 5,000 people on the first day itself. In fact, I firmly believe in the Chinese proverb, “ A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.” My 30-second Rule is devoted to this very idea.

What I am saying is this: keep the end goal in mind from the very beginning and then start with baby steps towards the goal. 

This idea of an end goal, however, is almost always discarded.  

How many marketers have a defined marketing strategy, one that is clearly documented beforehand? How many organizations put metrics in place (not as an on-and-off idea but as a must-use strategy) to compute/quantify/assess outcomes? Do we revise or re-plan strategies in order to reach the end goal?

In short, we don’t begin with the end in mind.

Now, let’s gaze through the end of the spectrum and watch the fun.

·         What if we had clearly visualized the outcomes we need (eg. – for Brandon Stanton, it was creating a popular photoblog)?

·         What if we had contemplated on the importance of these outcomes for us (it was the source of creative sustenance for Stanton and nothing else would have sufficed)?

·         What if we had poured over our path of executing an idea (10,000 clicks on the street of New York)?

·         What if we had delved on the kind of leadership it would take to get there (say Transformational leadership or Strategic leadership – more about these later in the book)?

·         What if we had thought about the management hurdles (are the employees mentally prepared for the strategic shift? Are they motivated enough? Does the company have the resources to pull off the strategic execution?)

·         And what if we had tried to figure out if the goal is non-negotiable or does it have alternatives, and if yes, then will those alternatives be equally satisfying (Ariana Huffington almost sprinted her way towards success- at a speed of 18-hour days x 7…till her body collapsed and she changed her execution, opting for work-life balance to reach the end goal in sight)?

Only if we know the end goal can we measure how close to the goal post our shot flew. We ourselves may not be in the best position to comprehend if we have been dutiful to our task. Perhaps, we may need an observer -observing from a distance- rather than analyze personally. After all, we are participating in the moment and may thus lack objective focus. If the need arises, we can hire a coach, a guide, an observer/commenter who can tell us from time to time if we are losing sight of the end goal.

This is true of a Loan Officer, a Branch manager, or even the president of the company.

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