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Before You Head Off, Make Sure You Know Where You Are Going - The Importance of Clear Objectives.

The title of this article sounds like simple advice, but so often we undertake activities and projects without really understanding how they are going to help us to achieve our aims. I have outlined below some of the causes of this cavalier (and costly) approach to business improvement along with how we might approach things differently.

The latest thing!

In business we are often worse devotees of fashion than any teenager. We undertake initiatives, programmes and structural changes regularly to follow the latest trends in management thinking. Think of business process re-engineering, lean manufacturing, web services, outsourcing, "off-shoring" - the list is endless. Now each of these have their place and can have a dramatic, and often very positive, effect on an organisation, but how often are they selected simply because they are what everyone else is doing or what the consultants are pushing this year?

All of the activities listed above are tools to achieve certain aims and every organisation's aims are unique.

Don't follow everyone else down the A1 if you are trying to get to Aberdeen!

Busy fools

Although in some organisations bureaucracy can lead to action never being taken on anything, in many the opposite is true. Particularly in the SME sector, action is prized much higher than planning. This can help in adapting quickly to change but often has the effect of creating "busy fools". Doing something is better than doing nothing, but it is worth a check to determine whether we are doing the right thing.

That five minutes to check the map before we pull away can save hours in getting lost on the way to our destination!

Stop and Think!

Before undertaking any activity or project, stop and think about how it meets your strategic objectives. If you don't have any strategic objectives then get that sorted before you do anything else.

With a clear idea about what your organisation is trying to achieve you can "cherry-pick" from the tools and techniques available and ensure that all of your resources are focussed on activities that will help you to achieve those aims. The success of these activities is also greatly enhanced, as employees understand why they are undertaking them, instead of paying them lip service while dismissing them as the management team's latest fad.

Full steam ahead!

Once you know where you are going, and you have selected the tools, techniques and projects that will take you there, you can charge full steam ahead, safe in the knowledge that you are not heading in the wrong direction.

Glen Feechan is Chief Executive of Feechan Consulting Ltd (, a business consultancy specialising in business process improvement training and consultancy. Email Glen at

Glen is also the editor (and regular contributor) of Changing Business ezine (sign up at

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