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This week’s focus: Many of the business plans I see forecast tremendous success in the second and third years of the plan, but project limited improvement in Year 1. There are many reasons for this: the need to invest, the need to learn, the need to develop.

These reasons may be rational and logical, but there is another fundamental – although generally unstated – reason: the fear of failing to achieve the performance goal. Future years are forecasts and so can be adjusted before becoming ‘real’, but managers know that the Year 1 goal will quickly become a real target and will most likely be used as a stick to beat them with rather than an inspirational goal.

The truth is that Years 2 and 3 of business plans rarely work out as planned and the temptation in 12 months time will be to repeat the conservative Year 1 forecast.

But what if you thought about the plan differently? What if you aimed to deliver 50%, rather than 5%, of the benefits of your new strategy in the first year? What would you do differently, how would you organize differently and how would you invest differently?

And, equally importantly, how could you inspire, incentivize and support your team to aim for the higher-level goal rather than a ‘safer’, incremental target?

Off The Record: Forever Young by Bob Dylan

May you build a ladder to the stars

And climb on every rung

And may you stay

Forever young

This is a wonderful, inspirational Dylan song – which sits alongside Simple Twist Of Fate as one of my favorite Dylan tracks – that has been covered by Joan Baez, among others, but I recently heard Deacon Blue do a great version on BBC radio – see here.

© Stuart Cross 2015. All rights reserved.