Why Before What in Setting 2015 Economic and Community Development Goals for Ashtabula County

In one way or another, we set goals to guide our economic and community development work efforts. One of my favorite gurus, Jim Ware at Future of Work, says leaders and managers should ask the why” questions before the “what” questions related to our work in the coming year. Jim’s right.

Ware offers a few questions that might help us with our 2015 reflections:

  1. Why are you focused on what you are focused on?
  2. What are you most proud of that you accomplished this year?
  3. What opportunities did you let slip away?
  4. What do you want to stop doing next year?
  5. What do you want to start doing?
  6. Deep down, what do you care about? Why?

As I think about my role as CEO of Growth Partnership (GP) and the need to set 2015 goals, here are some quick answers to Ware’s questions:

Why are you focused on what you are focused on?

In part, I have an inherited agenda that needs to be carried forward because it’s important to the board and others. For the most part, GP needs a new agenda–a shared agenda with its public and private sector partners, because alone we can do little, and together we can do more.

What are you most proud of that you accomplished this year?

I am most proud of the board’s efforts to remold the organization through its determination to serve the county and its businesses and communities better in the future. I am proud of the board’s courage to brave the “road less travelled.”

What opportunities did you let slip away?

Credibility and trust are foundations to everything in life. GP’s credibility declined over the past several years; that is it’s perceived and experienced value slipped away. We are rebuilding these foundations now. I am confident if GP works in a “smart” way with its partners, we will grow more opportunities together.

What do you want to stop doing next year?

As a strategy consultant to many organizations for many years, the answer to that questions is easy: Stop doing things that don’t align with GP’s new mission and priorities. Stop working in a piecemeal way and start working in a strategic and leveraged way to whittle away at our biggest opportunities and problems.

What do you want to start doing?

I want everybody on the Ashtabula County “development team” to get on base and score runs by becoming consistent hitters (lots of bunts, singles, doubles, and even a walk or two) to get someone on base and score when we have someone on base. Yes, a home run or two would be great, but swinging for the fence is not sustainable. Ashtabula County needs a team that gets hits when they’re needed and scores runs when we have the opportunity.

Deep down, what do you care about? Why?

That’s easy. I care about people and the human spirit, and how we get the flame of the human spirit burning stronger and stronger to bring “light” to the world. I care most that we see Ashtabula County’s economic base and its communities in “living” terms; for the economy and community are living systems.

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