Employees now demand meaningful roles in organizations that do meaningful work.  It’s the manager’s job to deliver.

Your plans must state clearly how your organization’s work makes the world a better place and show plainly how everyone can contribute.  A plan is a map to meaning.

Scroll to the Goal Tree for the free file, sample, and instructions.  Also, read pages 41-44 of Atoms & Orchestras (there are also free PDFs on this page).

It’s a deep human need to work with others on something important.  Amazing things happen when they do:  one member drew a plan that grew a unit from $20M to $200M.  (Counter-example:  Another member told of an executive who deleted embarrassing numbers—so all the numbers got worse.)

3 Big Ideas

  • People have always craved work with meaning. Now they demand it.
  • A plan is the manager’s chance to show everyone how their contribution makes a difference.
  • The one-page Goal Tree is a clear and compelling diagram linking mission and action.


Bob DeVita, Bryon Johnson, Bill Mitchell, Steve Johannsen, Erin Lavery, Brian Mueller, and Derrick Van Mell.

Avenues of Exploration

Only hire managers who hesitate to take the job

Why are some managers reluctant to lead a plan or project?  Because they’re asking hard questions of themselves, of the assumptions, of the challenge.  They’re looking deeply inward to see if they have the right energy and passion:  they know that if they’re not committed, their teams won’t be either.

What is “strategy” after all?

Strategy is a military term for a plan, so a “strategic plan” is literally a “plan-like plan.”  One of the cohort suggested using the word differently:  “Strategy is an approach to creating a competitive strength.”  That’s a lot more useful and exciting.

Industrial poetry

How cool would it be to have Shakespeare write your mission statement, your statement of meaning?  To also be leaders, managers need to inspire, and to inspire means being able to write and speak in a compelling way.  Seriously:  Hire a professional writer to rework your mission statement so people love to share it.

See page 43 in Atoms & Orchestras to learn about the four kinds of planning goals.  Also, Bernard Marr’s book, Key Performance Indicators is an excellent resource.

A Clever Way to Get Started

Start your Goal Tree by brainstorming the top three metrics in each of the six major management disciplines (see Level 1 of The General Management Index).

Are your KPIs leading or lagging indicators?  This question will foster a rich discussion about how everyone depends on everyone else to make a measurable difference.  Tip:   Don’t overthink the numbers.  It’s the conversation that matters.

I had a client who used one number to quantify his large company’s plan.  What should sales growth be?  15%  What should margin improvement be?  15%  By how much should turnaround time improve?  15%!  I asked him why 15%:  “Because 10% is too small and 20% is too much.”  (It was incredibly effective.)


Related posts