Unlike the aimless ‘Sunday drive’ where the journey is the benefit, the success of organization travel is typically defined by achieving a stated goal. The plan or the journey is not the goal. While the journey may provide enjoyment and growth for the members, it should not be mistaken for organizational success. This fundamental I believe is missed by many.
Organizations, big or small; public or private; profit or not, can take a life of their own, where the ride becomes more important than the goal. One only needs to look at the business obituaries to find examples of companies driven by leaders whose claim to fame was burning through investors’ cash in experiments that had no hope. The .com fiascoes are a good example where the enticements of rapid growth and huge returns were not substantiated with solid business models and plans. Without a clear roadmap in place, their travel was marked by huge flameouts and crashes.
So if corporate travel needs a destination, what should it look like? Well that depends on the nature of the business. Not-for-profits have different end destinations than those motivated by return on investment. A family owned enterprise, while profit oriented, may be motivated by succession plans for the offspring as much as financial growth. A charitable organization with lofty, humanitarian aims and ideals will define winning using very different criteria.
However defined, the destination needs a clear and reliable map with milestones in place, and members need to be aligned and committed to take passionate action. Fuzziness is the enemy of execution. What does “optimized customer loyalty” really mean? How about “maximizing the inherent benefits of our products”. And what the heck is “growing through employee engagement”? I am not challenging the goodness of these statements but as clear beacons of direction they fail the test of visibility. One should be able to look at an organizational goal, mission, or vision and say “I get it. I know what I need to do on Monday to help the enterprise, my department, and my team get there.” One also needs to know where one is every day relative to the goal. ‘Are we there yet?’ is a question every parent hears during a family journey.
One of my clients is in the plumbing business. He calls it a boring business but has breathed life into his small, family run business with innovation. They are very well known in the industry as providing solutions for plumbers. Their products are very, very good—so good in fact that the owner pays big bucks to lawyers for patents.
Their destination vision? “Our products installed on every plumbing fixture….one country at a time”. That’s pretty darned clear! Their growth plan includes selected (specific, targeted, measurable) American regions. Not the whole country. They took their first American order a few months ago. The buzz in this small business was deafening. They arrived at their first milestone destination. And they all knew it.