December 28, 2009 Tony Morgan

Stop Making Goals for the Future

I used to be a 5-year-plan type of guy. I was all about defining the vision and then establishing specific, measurable goals.

Now I think I’m more of a 5-day-plan type of guy. I still think organizations need to clarify their vision and their strategy, but I don’t necessarily think it’s helpful to define the 5-year goals.

Part of the reason why I don’t find long-term goals are helpful is that our environments are changing so rapidly. What we may perceive as success today, could look very different a few years from now. The goal may be too high or too low or we could be trying to reach a goal that has nothing to do with the long-term health and viability of our organization.

Additionally, I don’t think we sense the urgency today when we’re shooting for a goal 5 or 10 years from now. We delay the changes we need to make now. That’s probably because we fall in love what we’re doing now and think it’ll somehow produce different results in the future.

I do believe leaders instinctively have one eye on the future and the big picture as they’re making decisions today. I’m just in a place, though, where I think prioritizing our time and resources today is a much more valuable exercise than defining where we hope to end up 5 years from now.

And, rather than measuring where we are today against some goal in the future, I also think it’s wiser to measure current trends. We can hide behind future goals and forecasts, but getting honest about current trends forces us to reassess our strategy our structure and our team.

Instead of figuring out where we hope to be in five years, I think the more important questions are:

  • Do current trends suggest we’re moving in the right direction? If they aren’t, are you being honest about it or explaining away the numbers?
  • Do we have the right people in the right roles to help us move forward? I’d rather have the right people with the wrong strategy than the wrong people with the right strategy.
  • Are we focusing our time and resources on the right priorities? Honestly, I think most organizations can only handle one new project or initiative at any given time. Healthy organizations get everyone on the team pulling in the same direction to see that initiative through to success.

How about you? Are you still making long-term plans to clarify your personal or organizational vision? Or, have you landed in a similar place as me?

As we end one decade and launch into a new one, I’m really curious to hear how you’re approaching the future.

Do I need to stop what I’m doing and develop my “Vision 2020” goals?


Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.
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Comments (6)

  1. Tony, I agree in theory here and certainly agree the weighting of planning has shifted to more of an at once type of planning, but I believe it is still important to plan 5 years out, if for nothing else than to dream , set stretch goals for the organization and maintain the long-term direction of the organization, which I do not believe is a changeable as weekly planning could entail.

    As an example, we have annually had a “dream session” at one of our staff retreats. The staff is divided into teams and encouraged to dream long-term, where there are no limits financial or otherwise. We have been amazed looking back over the last few years how much our church has headed in those directions, simply because we voiced them out loud.

    While this is not planning, it’s simply dreaming, I believe the principle is the same. I believe we must continue to pick our head up from the week in front of us and look towards the long haul or we will find ourselves headed in directions we didn’t intend to head.

    I love your thoughts…stretching me.

    BTW, I’ve figured out the Fewer constraints = Less Creativity thought from an earlier post. Love it!

  2. I am glad to see that I no longer have to feel guilty for not setting out long range goals of 5-10 years for myself or the church I pastor. I have even stopped planning my sermons for the whole year. I used to have the whole year planned out and only under extreme duress would I veer away from it. I plan a series or two and try to scope out the landscape and ask God where He wants me to go from there. I do think it is valuable to have goals for the church but definitely feel that 3-5 is way too far reaching. My .02 worth.

  3. Michael

    Great post. As a church planter, it didn’t make sense to have a five year plan. Or a three year plan.

    Your post reminds me of Andy Stanley’s book, The Principle of the Path. As a leader, my job is to make sure our organization is headed in the right direction.

  4. General Henry

    I believe in your thought! I think yearly planning is the best and long term dream is good. You are blessing to the body of Christ. I will like to invite you to Africa. Let me know your mind.

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