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Four strategic seasons and how to use them effectively on your dairy

Hank Wagner for Progressive Dairy Published on 16 November 2020

How would you like to have complete control over the seasons? How might our lives and our businesses change if we had the ability to decide when each season would begin and end and could change the length of those seasons at any time?

And, why not throw into this wish list the ability to control the activity that happens during each of those seasons along with their intensity? I am guessing you may be getting a little excited about the ability to control your seasons. I hate to burst your bubble, but the seasons I am talking about are controllable, but they have nothing to do with the weather.

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There are four seasons in a calendar year: winter, spring, summer and fall. Each of those seasons are the same length and begin and end on the same day every year. It is probably a good thing we are not able to add, eliminate or adjust the order or length of any of Mother Nature’s seasons. If that were possible, it is likely somehow government involvement and regulation would make the outcome much worse than Mother Nature’s current system. Not to mention the constant fighting among neighbors about whether sunshine or rain was the right order for the day.

There are four other seasons we all have access to and have significant control over. How we choose to manipulate these four seasons can have a much bigger impact on our personal lives, and our businesses, than anything related to Mother Nature.

These four seasons are vision, goal setting, planning and reflection. I realize most of us have heard these four words before. You may even be already including them in your personal life or business at some level. I believe that thinking about them as seasons can help us be more strategic about how we use them. Unlike Mother Nature’s seasons, we can choose what we want to do with each of these four seasons.

Some people will choose to disregard all of them and take what life gives them. Others will strategically utilize each season to maximize the harvest that these four seasons can provide. And, then there is everyone else who chooses to be somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

1. Vision

Let us begin with the first season of vision. Its length might be an hour, a day or maybe even a month of strategic vision casting. The length of this season can be quite variable depending on the circumstances, but it must be the first season because it sets the stage for the other three. All great leaders understand the importance of this season and can strategically build a clear picture of what is possible. The season of vision has nothing to do with the past. We must intentionally block out past tense, or what has happened, and “visualize” what could happen. There will be many who will disagree, or even argue, with people who refuse to let the past, or present, keep them from “seeing” what is possible.

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This season is crucial because if a person or team skips this season, it is almost impossible to have clear direction about where the person or team is headed. If this season produces a restricted vision because people cannot see beyond the past or present, their future is also negatively impacted.

2. Setting goals

Once the vision, or picture, of what success is (I assume nobody creates vision to fail), it is time to enter the next important season, setting goals. You already have the picture of where you are going, and it is now time to set specific targets, benchmarks or measures that are in line with the season of vision. This will help you and others see a much clearer path to achieving your vision. It also helps build confidence and motivation as accomplished goals are celebrated along the way to achieving that vision.

I believe that just like vision, goals should also not be set based solely on past performance. Goals should stretch us and potentially hold us to a higher standard or level of performance than we may have previously achieved. The season of goal setting ends whenever the goals are established, not when they are achieved.

3. Planning

Once the season of setting goals is finished, we enter the third season, a season of planning. Having vision and setting clearly defined goals goes a long way to jumpstarting the process to have success. It has been proven that when people “see” a clear picture (vision) of where they are going, their subconscious minds already start them on that path. However, the season of planning can be crucial to thinking about what the necessary actions will need be to once again have the success of accomplishing the vision and goals.

This season can also be uncomfortable for some people, but without a season of strategic planning, the success process can be severely restricted. It is important to not let current thinking, habits or procedures restrict plans to accomplish those goals. Well-designed plans also make the path clear for everyone involved in the process. You may have heard the quote, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” Imagine a building contractor having to build a large home or factory with only a picture and no blueprint to follow. It would be very frustrating and a disaster at all levels. We sometimes do the same thing to ourselves or our teams by giving them a picture, and maybe even including specific goals, but no plans to achieve them.

4. Reflection

The final season is reflection, and it begins as soon as the planning season ends. It is usually the longest season because it includes the process of living out the vision, goals and plans. This season should include regular reflection on that picture of what is possible. It is important to establish the vision, but it does little good if that picture is not kept in front of us. Continually reflecting on the goals and plans also helps us see clearly what the objective is and reminds us of the next step in the process.

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The season of reflection is the final season, and what comes next, and when, depends on what happens during this season. The season of reflection sometimes will urge us to quit or give up because the goals are not being accomplished. I believe that quitting, or giving up, is sometimes necessary but usually not the right action. Reflection may cause us to revisit the plans if the goals are still correct, or it may cause us to go back to season one, if we have realized that we have strayed from that original vision. And, of course, the accomplishment of goals should automatically restart the seasons all over again.

This may sound like a hard or complicated process, but it does not have to be, and it can be very productive and rewarding. Using these four strategic seasons has the power to rewrite your future.  end mark

Hank Wagner is a dairy farmer in Oconto Falls, Wisconsin.

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