There is a difference between milestones and goals. Goals are the destinations we work towards and milestones are the points along the way we use to measure our progress on the journey towards our destinations. We need always to keep in perspective that it is not just about the destination but about the journey. It is not about perfection but about the progress we make, and it is not the results but the actions we take that are often the real gift of setting and achieving goals.
Imagine you are driving to a town you have never been to on a road you have never travelled before. It always seems longer the first time you go there, and it always seems shorter on the return trip. People can tell you how far it is in miles or kilometres or even in hours, but somehow you need those mileage markers or milestones along the way to measure your progress.
When it comes to defining long-term goals, companies and individuals are different. Over the past 10 years I have worked with Toyota and had the opportunity to travel to Japan and meet with senior company executives. It was at one of these informal meetings on a floating junk on Tokyo Harbour that I asked, ‘How far in advance do Toyota plan to produce a car for the mass market?’ I knew that Japanese companies are famous for having 100-year visions, but the response still amazed me:
‘We have working models for cars that we will launch in five years’ time, clay models used in wind tunnels for cars in ...