Definitions matter. Process matters.

Why?

Because they provide understanding, clarity of purpose and direction. And those things matter because you don’t want to waste your time, money and energy doing things that won’t get you nearer to where you want to be.

With that in mind, I thought I’d put together some of the definitions I use to manage projects at work. Although, these are of course applicable to any other area of life.

Each step – except the first – clarifies the step that came before and explains what you will do to achieve the previous step. They work like a funnel: wide at the top, narrow at the bottom. Getting clearer and more detailed as you go.

Let’s run through an example, let’s kill the dragon!

1. Aim

This is the thing you ultimately want to achieve. Your dream. Your hope and desire. Often expressed as a superlative, but not always.

  • Live in peace and harmony away from the huge dragon terrifying our neighbourhood and eating our children.

2. Objective

How will you achieve your aim?

  • Kill the dragon by the end of the month. Or at least neutralise it so that it doesn’t eat our children.

3. Strategy

How will you achieve you objective?

  • Identify SMART* weapons or defensive measures that will kill or neutralise the dragon by the end of the month.
  • *Specific, Measurable, Actionable & Affordable, Realistic and Timely

4. Tactics

What do you need to do to achieve your strategy?

  • Review the latest SMART weapons and defensive measures on offer and pick one that you can access, afford, use and that will definitely kill the dragon – or neutralise it – by the end of the month.
  • Hunt down the dragon and give it your best shot.

5. Task planning

What do you need to do next to put your tactics into action?

  • Put together a plan detailing who will do what, when, where, how, and for how much i.e. all the actions that need to happen to make sure the dragon meets its maker!
  • Then do those tasks.

6. Results / KPIs

What result will tell you if you have achieved your aim?

Depending on which solution is used:

  • The dragon being dead.
  • The dragon being safely behind bars.
  • The dragon having an alternative food source.
  • The dragon moving abroad and leaving everyone the hell alone.

7. Live happily ever after

Now that the dragon is pushing up daisies, doing time or living on the Costa Del Sol, you can take time to celebrate and enjoy life.

But seriously…

There are many variations on this process and the definition of these terms and steps, but this is how I use them to achieve clarity of purpose and achieve something. You can too. Whatever definitions and steps you use, they need to be clear and simple and help you identify:

A. Where you are now (and the problem with that)

B. Where you want to be (and why it would be good to get there), and,

C. How you’re going to get there (and when).

Sticking with our dragon for just one more minute, once you’ve gone through these steps – but not executed anything – you should be able to express A, B and C in a statement like this:

We live in a small village on the slopes of a mountain (A), but we’re being terrorised by a huge dragon who eats our children. Understandably, we’re not too keen on this and would rather live in peace and safety, if not harmony with the dragon (B). So, we’ll either need to kill the dragon, throw it in jail or encourage it to move away by the end of the month (C).

Being able to summarise the entire campaign in one paragraph like this allows you to share it with a wide audience without the need to get into too much detail. In just three sentences they can get the gist of what you’re trying to do, how, when and why.

Using a slightly less medieval analogy…

Here’s how you can use this process to manage a digital marketing campaign (the industry in which I work):

1. Aim

  • Increase the number of online sales by 20% in the next twelve months, compared to the previous period.

2. Objective

How will you achieve your aim?

  • Sell X amount more product, or sell the same amount of product for X% higher price.

3. Strategy

How will you achieve you objective?

  • Attract new customers to buy.
  • Get previous customers to buy again.

4. Tactics

What do you need to do to achieve your strategy?

  • Drive more traffic to the website using:
    • SEO optimisation to improve our website so that we appear higher in the search rankings e.g. improve site load speed, cross-device compatibility, content offering etc.
    • Running a social media ad campaign to drive people to the website.
    • Running an email “special offer” campaign to drive people to the website.
  • Convert more onsite traffic by using:
    • CRO techniques (including AB testing).

5. Task planning

What do you need to do next to put your tactics into action?

  • Put together a plan detailing who will do what, when, where, how, and for how much i.e. all the actions that need to happen to make sure online sales increase by 20%.
  • Then do those tasks.

6. Results / KPIs

What result will tell you if you have achieved your aim?

  • The number of online sales totaling 20% or more than the number of online sales in the previous period.

The key takeaway:

As I mentioned, there are many variations on this process and definitions of each step. Ultimately, you need to find something that works for you but whatever definitions and steps you use, they need to help you identify:

A. Where you are now (and the problem with that);

B. Where you want to be (and why it would be good to get there), and,

C. How you’re going to get there (and when).