There is an old saying that everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die. Loosely translated to business, that means everyone wants to grow a profitable business but few are up to the challenge of executing the steps necessary for change and measuring results to assure necessary progress. As the strategic planning season begins and senior leaders head out to exotic off-site retreats in order to “look to the future,” there are a number of lessons to bear in mind as you unfold your vision for the year ahead.

Creating the company’s vision for the coming year is designed to inspire passion and rally the troops for a drive towards Excellence. But the real challenge is to back up that passion with sound fundamentals and an execution strategy that turns those words into action. As you develop plans and put the final touches on your vision and goals for the future, make sure you spend an equal amount of time determining which initiatives are best suited to help reach your goals. By the way, five strategic initiatives are more manageable and bring focus.

For example, “growing premium” is not enough. What new actions are required and how will you manage your sales force to insure the new actions are being followed?

Whether it is a new sales strategy, an organizational restructure or a new operational strategy to better leverage new technology investments, be sure to define how to measure success. What are the key metrics you’ll use for measurement?  What are the expected time frames to start seeing results?  What are the “defined” actions to be taken to reach the stated goals?

Defined steps and actions must accompany any vision statement including data to evaluate progress, metrics to drive the change needed and assigned accountability for delivering the improvement. Finance and IT have the data that is the key to getting your organization to be data and metrics driven in order to make the new vision happen. Things always look better at 30,000 feet, but it is on the ground where the winners make things happen. Good luck as you strive for Excellence in 2014!