Starting Afresh, Business Cycles and No Objectives

by Lorne Mitchell on 07/09/2011

I always enjoy this time of the year. For me, in many ways, the 1st of September is the start of a New Year.
If you can remember when you were young, or even more recently, if you have children, this time of the year marks the start of the academic year. It is back to school week and also Freshers week for those starting University. It is a out-of-sync start to the year when, in the Northern Hemisphere, we are all heading into Autumn and Winter. Perhaps the original designer for the academic cycle was an Antipodean when it coincides with Spring. Who knows?

Anyway, I have found over the past three years of running a small consulting business that there are definite peaks and troughs in demand for an extra pair of (external) hands to kick-off a new campaign or project. And that cycle is very much in in line with the school year. I can see a definite trend of individuals buying in three cycles – September/October, January/February and April/May/June. Nobody buys anything in August!

So with this New (Business) Year, I decided, whilst on holiday in August, to do a few radical things – just to mark the occasion.  I’ve upgraded my apple computer (because the old one broke beyond repair).  I’ve changed broadband service provider to Zen (having been struggling with BT’s customer service for several years). And I have also decided to move from my old-style accountant to one that can handle the cloud, is more proactive and help the business grow.  All these changes have definitely given me a “back to school”, start of a New Year refreshed feeling.

With these somewhat mundane changes, I have also been reflecting on the past three years and what goals and objectives I should set the business for the next three years. After all, I run a business called Objective Designers! So I was very amuzed to get an email this morning from a great productivity blog I subscribe to called “ZenHabits”.  I was reading an earlier entry called “No Goal” – which struck a chord.  What if we actually have no goals?  What then?  I love the two quotes at end of the ZenHabits post:

‘Always remember: the journey is all. The destination is beside the point.’

“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”  Lao Tzu

Why do we set all these goals and objectives?  What purpose do they serve?  Is there really an alternative framework with no goals, no budgets, no plans.  Just free-and-easy go-with-the-flow business?  I can see this probably wouldn’t work in big business, but for a micro business, it is an interesting idea. Many self-employed folk around the world probably do this naturally anyway!

Anyway, it makes you think – which is what this blog is all about!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David Cross September 8, 2011 at 09:08

For some companies that wouldn’t be such a big change to the business as usual – they might even have some competitive advantage in such a new order!

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2 Lorne September 8, 2011 at 09:37

Interesting, David.

Just got an email from David Allen of GTD fame which says:

“One of the reasons you won’t find ABC/123 priority coding in the GTD system is that most people’s lives change too quickly for it to ever be an accurate reflection of what’s true in this moment. Not to say clarifying priorities shouldn’t be a priority, but I bet you can think of a time when you thought your day looked one way at 9:00a.m., and an exciting or challenging or annoying interruption or surprise happened at 9:05a.m. that blew all of that out of the water. How quickly could you shift and change to adapt to that—while bookmarking what you were working on to easily get back to it?

Your ability to deal with surprise, elegantly and proactively, is your personal and organizational competitive edge.”

It is interesting how Objectives and Goals are often based on a load of assumptions that increasingly, in this fast-moving world, change too fast to lock-down into a rigid plan. This loss of competitive edge through inflexibility is at the heart of why large companies often struggle to embrace change and “go with the flow” or “get in the groove” (as they say in Jazz circles).

Might do a post on this in the future.

Lorne

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3 David Cross September 8, 2011 at 12:36

There’s definately something interesting here around organisational systems, business agility and competitive advantage. Look forward to the post!

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4 John Finch August 25, 2013 at 08:50

There is always one moment in the present when the door opens and lets the future in.

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5 Lorne Mitchell August 25, 2013 at 18:25

Wise words, John. Thank you.

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