question

How can you stay focused on your long-term goals while working on short-term daily tasks?

Shawn Chhabra

Host, “Winning the Game of Life” podcast

answer

Short-term tasks should help you focus on your long-term goals. The two ought to be aligned.

Long-term goals should fit into a strategic structure so that they are clear and understandable. They should then provide a framework that guides short-term decisionmaking. Goals define an organization in terms of what it wants to be in the future and not necessarily what it is today. This leads to a competitive position that differentiates the firm from others in its market. From there, the firm’s goals would provide a valuable offering to its customer segments and attract and retain engaged employees. Goals structured in this, or in a similar manner, provide workable alignment of the firm with customer and employee engagement. It is important to continually measure progress toward reaching defined goals. This is done through customer feedback and employee satisfaction studies, competitive analysis and cash flow. Quarterly reports and regular board meetings help firms maintain their focus. They also help the firm adjust long-term goals to the reality of their market.

Back to short-term tasks. They can overwhelm an organization to the extent that it loses sight of its goals. When this is felt within the organization, it is time for management action in two directions. The first is organizing the tasks. Try to identify the root causes of issues that draw the firm away from its long-term goals. A number of process tools are available that can assist in providing a more optimized operational environment. The second is revisiting the goals themselves. Are they the right goals for the market? Are they reachable? Will they provide the appropriated cash return? Are they aligned with the talent present within the organization? Aligning long-term goals with day-to-day operations is a process that demands a structure review and the application of management tools. Perhaps it also requires an outsider’s review to challenge the current behaviors of the firm’s staff.

About the author

Jack Militello is a professor of management at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.