Thoughts about business and economic development in rural areas.

 

January 2008
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Archive for January 1st, 2008

Right Time to Measure Success

Ok, start of a new year and time to make those resolutions. In 2008 I will (insert wish here). One of the big problems with annual resolutions is that we expect to accomplish them in one year. In most cases, by setting up a timeline based on a calendar year we have already set ourselves up for failure.

Most goals, especially major ones, are likely to take longer. Yet we judge our success on how far we are going to get in one year. So a few weeks into the year we discover that the task will likely take longer than a year so we abandon the resolution as unattainable. Result…..nothing, or at best very little.

We do the same within our organizations. We elect officers for an annual term and then set our goals based on that term of office. Yet in most organizations and certainly in almost all economic development groups the tasks we are undertaking may take years to achieve significant progress. At the end of an annual term of office the folks involved wonder why ‘nothing’ got done and then feel frustrated and worse, question whether the next year will be any different.

The problem isn’t with our goals, but with the timetable we have for measuring progress. In my experience in the economic development field I’ve found that the only things completed in one year are usually bad. Closing a business in one year is easy. Building one can take five years or a lifetime. Even if the groundbreaking or ribbon cutting happens this year, the process that it took to get there most likely covered several years.

When I worked with Grant County I always did a year-end report and I always found the results listed not living up to my expectations even when we had a ‘good’ year. But when I took people on a tour of the county and showed them what had occurred in our communities over 10 or more years I was always amazed by how much measurable progress had been made.

Tony Robbins may have said it best. “People have a tendancy to overestimate what they can accomplish in one year and underestimate what they can accomplish in ten.”

So what should we do? Maybe it’s time to get away from ‘annual’ reports and change them to ‘discords on the decade’.