Friday, January 13, 2006

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

On Jan. 4, I did a presentation for a local group of women business owners called Women Business Owners Connection (WBOC). The presentation was entitled "Looking Back, Looking Ahead" and the PowerPoint can be viewed here. This is a topic I've grown a bit passionate about and it does apply to you, your organization and the projects your working on. Let me explain.

A little background first -- When I incorporated my business, I was told that I should write something at the end of each year that captured in words that year's activities (an annual report of sorts). It was explained that there were some legal reasons for doing so, although it was also explained that it was mandatory. I didn't do anything at the end of that first year, but did at the end of year two. And then I saw the power of this activity.

We do accomplish much during the year, make many decisions and do a lot of activities. But we often have a hard time remembering what we did, especially if we need to recall something from several years ago. So capturing this information on some regular basis can be very helpful. It also allows us to see -- by looking back over the various reports -- how our businesses/organizations/departments have changed. We might also see indications of what changes we need to make in the future.

In the last couple of years, I've worked with two volunteer organizations on their year-end reports that they have sent to their members. Since each member sees a different view of the organization, this year-end report ensures that everyone has the same information about what was accomplished as well as notes about ongoing activities. With one organization, the report always turns up activities that weren't widely known (marketing done, classes held). In these cases, there is a sense of "wow" when people see the report and realize all of the activities.

How can you use this idea? Well, it is important that your organization keep track of what it has accomplished, so sit down (perhaps with a group of people) and make notes about last year. Oh, you say that it's not your job to do this? Well, you likely need to know what you did last year, so start with that. You might even then think about how your work impacted on your department or the organization as a whole. What did the organization accomplish because of you?
And be sure to answer this question:

What was the most important thing that you did in the last year?

The PowerPoint contains links to two handouts. One is a report produced by a local group that is an excellent example of the information that can be captured, as well as how it can be used to keep members informed. The other is the format that I use for my yearly report along with some notes to help you think about the categories. The format I use is very formal, but yours does not have to be.

Once you've thought about that last year (or whatever time period you're dealing with), then turn your attention to the year ahead. What changes do you want to make? What goals should you set? And remember to ask these questions:

When the year is done, what do you want to have accomplished?
What is the most important thing you'll do in the next year?

During the meeting, I mentioned keeping a "business journal" and was asked more about this during the Q&A. A business journal is a journal where you keep track of what you've done at work each day. I started this practice many years ago when I worked in a company where we had to produce monthly reports of our activities and accomplishments. I would write each day in my journal what I had worked on and the (general) amount of time I had spent on specific activities. (A great way of learning how much time specific things take as well as how much time gets wasted.) When I began my own business, I journaled using Microsoft Outlook. Now I use my electronic calendar and notes in my personal journal to jog my memory.

If you're finding that tracking details about "what you did when" would be helpful, consider starting a business journal to where you can write quick notes.

Technorati tag:

No comments: