How to Prepare for 2020, Today

It’s December 2018, which means there are only 13 months left to accomplish your company's “2020 Vision.” You know, those inspiring videos, beautiful customer experience journeys, and new sets of metrics that define the future of the company, product, or service that you worked so hard to make and inspire other with?

Well, the future is nearly here.

We’re big fans of vision. (We’ve written about how you can set yours.) You’ve got to have a compelling picture of the future that motivates people and gives them a North Star, a way to know they’re making progress. And you’ve got to make sure that the leadership team is aligned around that vision and supportive of the work needed to get there. But if you don’t figure out how to apply that to day-to-day work, it’s just an empty statement and work of fiction.

If you’re behind on reaching that inspiring 2020 vision, here’s what we suggest:

  • Reconnect company visions to personal motivations. An inspiring company vision is a great start, but don’t count on people to automatically embrace it. Hold 1:1s to determine what your employees want to accomplish personally, and discuss how that can be connected to the larger picture. It’s also a good opportunity to remind people of how their work impacts other people, whether that’s making their customers' lives better, or they’re helping their colleagues. Don’t forget to ask them about blockers: what’s getting in their way? What’s preventing them from doing their best work?

  • Prioritize. The reality of the modern workplace is that your attention and resources are pulled in every direction. If you want to accomplish your goals, you’re going to have to decide what you’re not going to do, so call an ICE session with your colleagues. First, list all tasks or projects for the next year, one per Post-It note. Then sort the tasks by Impact—how much will they directly contribute to your 2020 goals? Mark the three to five most impactful tasks with an “I.” Then repeat this activity, ranking once by the Effort required, and once by how Confident you are in those projects succeeding. Now sort those tasks into four categories: Speed Up, Continue, Stop, and Backburner. To start, we recommend sorting the tasks with the most marks into “Speed Up,” and the tasks with no marks into “Stop” or “Backburner.” 

  • Break down vision into rhythms and habits. No matter how grandiose your vision, it will only be achieved (or not) by making small changes to your work every day. If you had to drop 20 pounds in 6 weeks, you wouldn’t achieve your goal just by painting a vision of a healthier you–you’d have to break down your days into healthier habits and rituals (e.g., waking up and doing 10 push-ups). Work is no different. You simply won’t achieve new results with old behaviors. Learn more about habit-building here.

  • When all else fails, paint a new vision. It’s never fun to admit you won’t make your goals, but it’s worse to burn out your teams emotionally and physically trying to do the literally impossible. Visions are always meant to be far out and hard to actualize, but not impossible. Show that you see the present for what it is, and that you still believe in making things better by redefining a still-inspiring but realizable vision.

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