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Success means different things to different people. Whatever success looks like for you, is defined by your ambitions and the goals that you set for yourself. For businesses, success is ultimately defined by their ultimate goal: the mission & vision. Being successful is turning those ambitions (goals) into reality (results).
3 pillars of success
No matter how big or small an organization, success is built on 3 pillars. With a clear path to success, an overview of what matters most, and the accomplishment of your most important goals, nothing stands in your way to realize your ambitions.
It’s important to first plan your path to success. That path helps you identify what matters most, and only when you know what matters most, does it makes sense to start working on your goals.
Step 1: Build a clear path to success
A clear path to success starts with the end in mind: your mission & vision. Your mission & vision reflects the ultimate ambition of your organization, it defines in one sentence what your organization is all about. Usually, your mission & vision lies 20-30 years into the future, but because ambition grows with the company, it rarely is something that you’ll fully achieve.
Once you have your end destination clear, the next step will be to decide what your strategy will be. Your strategy communicates your long-term plan for how to realize the mission & vision. Typically, Strategic OKRs are set once every 3 to 5 years, and only on company level.
Step 2: Identify what matters most
Having a clear path to success in place enables you to identify what matters most to your company each year, and what matters most to each team each quarter.
A KPI measures a core, ongoing responsibility for the entire organization or a specific team. KPIs make it easy to keep an overview of how the key areas of your business or team are performing. It tracks the performance of the things that you will always be working on, your business as usual.
Where a KPI is about the status quo, an OKR is about breaking out of the status quo. These are the challenges that you set out for your organization or team. OKRs help you build, improve or innovate important parts of your business.
KPIs vs OKRs
KPIs and OKRs are different types of goals. Imagine you’re driving a car towards a destination. Your KPIs is what you’ll find on your car’s dashboard, like the fuel gauge and engine temperature gauge. They prevent the engine from overheating and make sure you won’t run out of gas, which are all things that you’ll constantly need to watch. OKRs are like your roadmap, they’ll guide you to your destination. OKRs are temporary, they’ll change from time to time. Once you’ve passed a landmark towards your destination, you’ll focus on the next on the next one.
Step 3: Progress towards your goals
Hitting your goals is the hardest part and will take, by far, the most time. Hence, you first want to make sure that you’re working on the right goals, which is why this step comes last.
With a clear path to success and an overview of what matters most, you can be confident that you’ll be working on the right things. Had you done it the other way around, you would have risked wasting your scarce resources by working on the wrong goals. Working on the right things is what makes you effective and what gets you closer to your mission & vision.
Progressing towards your goals means that you need to stay focused on them. Regularly check-in with your goals to see how they’re progressing. Simple processes helps build habits that gets this done.
Success is not linear, it’s circular
The problem with success is that it’s never permanent. Due to constantly changing circumstances, staying successful requires constant work. New competitors are entering, the needs of customers are changing, new technologies enables new solutions, the owners’ ambitions change, and so on.
Therefore, building your path to success requires constant planning and iteration. What matters most is changing over time, making it quite a challenge for organizations to successfully identify what matters most at any point in time.
Nonetheless, it’s achieving goals that is the hardest part, so you better make sure you are working on the right goals, which is why you first need to plan your path to success and identify what matters most for the upcoming period.
As you are achieving your goals, it’s time to revisit your path to success and start planning for the upcoming period.
We call this the never-ending Circle of Success.