Begin with the end in mind

April 1, 2004 By    

Last month we introduced the first of seven habits of highly effective propane companies: “Be Proactive.” We reviewed how a proactive management team works:

  • Concerns itself with the elements within its control;
  • Realizes it is more effective to act than to be acted upon; and
  • Does not allow outside forces to determine the outcome of its efforts.

The second habit, “Begin with the end in mind,” is the habit that creates a clear vision of what your company is all about. It is rooted in the power of visioning to create a clear destination. Planes don’t leave the ground without a specific flight plan, buildings aren’t started without a blueprint, and vacations don’t happen without a plan as to where to go and what to do. All are examples of beginning with the end in mind.

Does your propane company have a clearly defined destination?

To understand this concept, consider a simple metaphor for the direction of your company. The direction of your business can be thought of as a ladder that your team is climbing to some higher ground of improvement. Each rung represents an accomplished project or the achievement of a certain goal that is beneficial to the company. Team employees are keenly focused on their part of each step. Drivers make deliveries, your accounting person sends out the bills, and your customer service representative takes care of all your customers.

The assumption is that if we are working hard and focused, we will somehow succeed and move our company up the ladder.

But your hardworking team may reach the top of the ladder and find it is placed against the wrong wall. Beginning with the end in mind assures you that your ladder is placed against the right wall.

Leadership vs. management

Management expert Peter Drucker says there’s a difference between management and leadership. To him, management is doing things right, while leadership is doing the right things.

Beginning with the end in mind is making sure that your employees’ efforts are directed at doing the right things. Your senior leadership group must possess both the skills of managing and displaying leadership – which is making sure your ladder is against the right wall.

Visioning as a leadership tool

How does your leadership team create a clearly defined direction? First, members must recognize the difference between their roles as managers and visionary leaders of the organization. The team must accept its responsibility for the company’s destination. It needs to use visioning as a regular tool.

What is visioning? It is the ability to use your imagination to create what currently does not exist. We do it all the time in our daily lives, imagining our family vacation or creating a plan for a new building, imagining the features of the new delivery truck.

Try visioning as you think about your company. Take your management team through a simple exercise. Ask each member to describe what the company should look like, then collectively share the results.

Let’s assume your company today has 3,000 customers, with 50 percent residential, 40 percent agricultural, and 10 percent commercial. Your company sells 2 million gallons of propane and generates $100,000 of net income before income taxes.

Now let’s assume that your team collectively imagined that five years from now your company would look like this: 3 million gallons and 5,000 customers composed of 65 percent residential, 20 percent agriculture and 15 percent commercial with net income of $250,000.

If this simple vision were to be created and accepted by your management team, isn’t that a clear destination? If you were to do this process and attain a shared vision of what your company could be, wouldn’t you begin to conduct your business differently? Wouldn’t you begin to take the steps towards this destination?

This process can begin to transform your organization from a directionless, reactive-based company to one that has energy, purpose and excitement.

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