Begin With an End in Mind
I’ve never been a big fan of Steven Covey, but he got it right on this one. How many times have you heard something like this at a conference or read it on an electronic forum:
“Help! My boss wants me to (fill in appropriate assignment) and I don’t know where to start. Has anyone had to do this? Could you share what you did? I don’t want to reinvent the wheel!”
The assignment could be anything from creating a strategic plan to justifying a piece of equipment to conducting a customer satisfaction survey to increase revenues. Whatever the topic, you’re not sure where to start, so you look for help from colleagues. Nothing wrong with that.
Well, actually there is something wrong with that. Beginning with an end in mind was one of Covey’s seven habits of successful people. His point was that you need to have a good idea about what you want your future to look like in order to chart a path to get there. It’s not enough to want to create a strategic plan or survey your customers; you need a reason as well.
Covey’s abstraction is aimed at the 50,000-foot view, to be sure, but it is just as applicable at the operational level. Let’s say your assignment is to conduct a customer survey. You could begin by looking at what others have done and cherry pick parts that sound good to you, but will that get you what you want? Probably not. Why? Because you haven’t made the basic decision of what you want your customers to tell you, and you have to decide that before you can decide how to approach it.
First you need to ask yourself some basic questions.
• Why do you want to survey customers?
Ray Chambers, CGCM, MBA, has invested over 30 years managing and directing printing plants, copy centers, mail centers and award-winning document management facilities in higher education and government.
Most recently, Chambers served as vice president and chief information officer at Juniata College. Chambers is currently a doctoral candidate studying Higher Education Administration at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU). His research interests include outsourcing in higher education and its impact on support services in higher education and managing support services. He also consults (Chambers Management Group) with leaders in both the public and private sectors to help them understand and improve in-plant printing and document services operations.