The Secret is a popular, and therefore self-contradictory book: If you can buy it on Amazon.com, how secret can it be?
Someone who read The Secret let me in on it. It resembles the movie What the Bleep do We Know? — a new age spin on quantum physics.
It starts with what by now is well worn. A quantum event, such as the radioactive decay of an atomic nucleus, is intrinsically random. Until an observer sees the outcome, the universe simultaneously exists in two “superposed” states — in one the nucleus has decayed, in the other it has not. The act of observation collapses the two states back into a single reality in which the nucleus either did or did not decay.
That’s when it all goes wrong. The Secret is that through concentration you can take advantage of this principle to make random events come out your way.
Which leads to the question: If two people both know The Secret and concentrate in opposite directions, then what?
It also leads to the more important question, Weren’t you paying attention when you read the phrase, “intrinsically random?” If an observer can choose the outcome of an event it isn’t intrinsically random anymore.
It’s a nice theory, though. It stands up to the two tests most Americans and far too many business leaders apply to such ideas: It (1) is more convenient than the way the world really works, and (2) fits their preconceived notions.
It sure would be handy if The Secret worked as advertised. If it did, instead of my typical stock picks’ habit of plummeting like poisoned pigeons, they would soar like celestial seraphim.
Want to know a real secret? It’s that there is no secret. The best way to forecast the future is to make it happen. You won’t achieve this by concentrating your will to influence quantum events. You’ll achieve it by concentrating your efforts and the efforts of those working for you to make them happen.
Here’s a handy-dandy formula that can help: 3, 1, 3, 4. By the numbers:
3-year vision: This is what you want your organization to be and to accomplish. You should be able to explain it in clear, direct terms. This isn’t the place for nuance.
And if you’re a loophole sort of person, sorry, run-on sentences are cheating.
An example, if you’re looking for one: “In three years, IT will be the company’s partner in designing change and a leader in making it happen.”
1-year strategy: This is the one-year down payment on your three-year vision. As is the case for your vision, you should also be able to express your strategy in one or two simple declarative sentences:
“This year, our goal is to achieve a ‘culture of discipline’ — a shared way of thinking and acting that means every employee makes good decisions instead of managers having to enforce them through oversight.”
3-month goals: Here’s where it starts to become real. Anyone can look out three years, or even one year, and articulate brilliant outcomes. Three months is another matter. Three months is urgent. It’s immediate. It’s hard to escape.
Developing goals for the next three months isn’t particularly challenging. What’s difficult is figuring out a list that moves you toward your one-year strategy. My best advice: Don’t worry about it at first. Getting in the habit of putting down any list of three-month goals is an interesting enough challenge. Once you’ve started you can refine it.
4 -week plan: This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s what you intend to achieve each week for the next month to make sure your three-month goals turn into accomplishments at a steady pace.
I’ve said “your vision, your strategy, your goals and your plan.” If that’s all they are, you’ll fail. Your management team has to embrace the vision and strategy — it has to be theirs. The goals have to be their goals even more than they are your goals, and the plan isn’t a plan at all — it’s the composite of their individual plans, shared so that everyone knows what anyone knows.
What’s left is checking off the details as you complete them. That and all the hard work of making it happen.
Don’t make the mistake of minimizing the hard work, just because other people have to do it. Compared to it, all of your planning is pretty easy.