There's been a tremendous amount of good research done on the value of setting goals, the importance of writing them down, making them specific, setting timelines, making them measurable, creating a plan and implementing that plan. Most people have had success by truly setting goals, and floundered in areas where they haven't, so you would think that it would be a very simple and routine process for every individual and business to set goals.
In ag, most of the larger entities, associations and allied industry companies have strategic plans that identify their key result areas and set out concrete goals for the short and long term. But this exercise still is rarely done at the individual producer level.
There are probably a couple of reasons for this. The first is that to set a goal of increasing profit margin by 5% over the commodity market, or increasing weaning percentage by 4%, or cutting death losses in half, etc., entails first having benchmarks by which to measure your progress. Where you were a year ago, or over the last several years?
It would also entail having a system to adjust those numbers according to outside variables that might cause them to fluctuate, whether it be weather, market factors, etc. And the truth is most producers simply do not have that information. Without a system to adjust for outside variables to make year-to-year comparisons, it's a challenge to measure whether you're making progress.
Another reason cattle operators often don't create a strategic plan or set concrete goals is many folks don't think they can afford the time. They simply carry the goals in their head. Unfortunately, unless these goals are written down, and the critical areas and eventual results monitored, progress is stunted.
Without engaging in a true strategic planning and goal process for your operation, odds are that when 2008 rolls around you'll have made small incremental improvements in many areas. In addition, you'll likely have failed considerably in one or two where outside forces will be blamed, and overall profitability will have remained largely unchanged.
It's not too late to make 2007 a very special year for your operational goals. The key is to start the process now.
-- Troy Marshall