The last work week of the year is traditionally given over to strategic thinking. Essentially the workplace version of New Year’s Resolutions, it seems unavoidable that we spend this last week of the year contemplating our choices and planning improvements. Atlas Geotechnical is strongly committed to strategic thinking. Fully acknowledging that this is the most meta of all possible topics, here is our strategy for developing our 2019 strategy.
Three coincidental events prompted this thinking: reflecting on 2018 goals, a collaborator’s success, and feedback from a new friend.
- Reflecting on 2018 Goals: One of our promising young engineers had a fantastic year of professional and personal growth. She performed new tasks that many engineers finish their careers without ever experiencing. She learned new tools. She’s a better writer. 2018 was undeniably a good year. Yet she did not accomplish even one of the “goals and objectives” that she and I together set at this time last year. The fault, if any is due, goes to me; I did not create opportunities for achievement. These goals checked all the SMART boxes, they were good goals. But they were necessarily established before the year had shown us what better experiences were to be had. We were right to take the better opportunities, but goals abandoned are not goals at all. For 2019, Atlas needs to articulate an over-arching framework that guides both goal-setting and goal-revision. We need a system for the adaptiveness that we improvised in 2018.
(I don’t want to bash traditional SMART goals. They deserve a place in your planning. Read more here: https://fitsmallbusiness.com/smart-goals-examples/)
- A Collaborator’s Success: A longtime friend and co-worker shared positive feelings arising from demonstrating great decisiveness in making an important change. Normally contemplative and cautious, he made a good decision quickly and then kept believing in it. Decisiveness like that can’t exist without optimism, the idea that committing to a path will work out well (or can be made to work out well enough, if necessary). Decisiveness, optimism, and confidence aren’t goals. They’re behaviors that sure do help achieve goals once you set them. I believe that cultivating decisiveness and optimism couldn’t be a precursor step that could unify our 2019 Strategic Plan.
- Expert Insight: A new friend described my writing here as “vigorous.” He earns his living in academia. He’s a professional thinker, a person who illuminates ideas that remain obscure under less-acute inspection. Vigorous. What an excellent, concise adjective. His comment resonates especially because he is unfamiliar with the details of our work here at Atlas, so he is describing the image that we project rather than the outcome of our work. It so neatly encapsulates my love for our industry and the importance of our work. All engineers should all strive to be vigorous in our work. My practice, and Atlas more generally, will succeed in 2019 when I expand on an attribute that I already have and approach all our work with even greater vigor.
Eric Resseler, founder of Cosmic and the teamleader who created this website, helped me focus these three experiences into (to me) new line of thinking. The guiding framework for adaptive goal setting is a “theme.” Though not specifically intended for business strategy, consider reading this year-old backgrounder about Themes:
Eric has a fresh approach to strategic marketing that I find useful. Read here: https://designbycosmic.com/insights)
Before setting 2019 goals, consider your strategic theme. A young engineer might focus on collecting divers new skills and experiences. My collaborator felt buoyed up by his decisiveness, and more like that might make for greater progress over the course of the year. For me, I want to focus on restoring true vigor to my practice after a couple of wearying years.
Atlas Geotechnical’s 2019 strategic theme is readiness. This year our goals will focus on honing the knowledge, systems, and resources needed to effectively serve our clients and their projects.
- Atlas will emphasize staff development in all of its forms and will take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
- I am optimistic that by September we will have re-established our capacity to support any project anywhere in the world. Confidence in our financial resources facilitates decisiveness in accepting new projects.
- Our maturing safety program will assure that we can show up ready-to-work at any site in the world. Investing in safety training during slack times allows focus on logistics and analyses at project kickoff.
- Personally, I’ll improve my effectiveness at work by finally taking on restorative breaks. The first half of 2019 is my time the sharpen my tools, whether in the pool, in the ocean, or in the mountains. Time with family and friends is a part of cultivating greater vigor back at my desk.
I hope that sharing our approach offers something useful as you contemplate your own 2019 goals. Consider the triumphs and disappointments of 2018, choose a theme to guide you in 2019, and commit to your theme before setting your new goals.
Happy new year. It’s going to be a great one for all of us.