In different corners of the planet, the month of September marks the start line for a new academic year, and sometimes also a fiscal one. Before going into the whirlwind that sucks in most professionals after the summer holidays, it’s prudent to bear in mind the wise counsel Aristotle gave to his son in the unforgettable book, Nicomachean Ethics.
The Greek sage pointed out that to achieve a goal, it is vital to define:
- Where we are
- Where we would like to be
- How we get there
Too many people and organizations overlook one or more and toil over random goals, wasting time and energy.
Aristotle’s advice to his offspring isn’t confined to these issues. Elsewhere he holds it is fundamental to state the four causes which permit advances, namely:
- Efficient (or moving) cause
- Formal cause
- Material cause
- Final cause
In modern terminology, the efficient cause is effort or work. The formal one is the paradigm we use. The material clause includes the right media: money, tools, instruments, etc.
The final cause is the why behind decisions and actions. It must be behind the onset of intent and the end of achievement. The final cause is the target to which everything must direct to, so that the vested energy is not in vain.
Many focus attention on the efficient cause (how to promote work); some on the formal cause (business model); and on the material one (financing). But few actually know where they are going, either because they do not reflect or their goals are only partial.
Achieving optimal performance for the shareholder may be a goal, but it shouldn’t be the only one!
Monetizing is essential, but so is creating the conditions that make an honourable life for all the stake-holding groups possible. Whoever thinks only in terms of Excel (i.e. finance) will pick up fat pay check. But if he doesn’t look any further, he runs the risk of failing as a person in his limited perception of the world, however much he triumphs professionally.
What’s more, whoever improves the scope of their goals, often achieves increased monetization too.
Reflection time at the beginning of a phase is not a waste of time, but the best way not to miss the target. Seneca put it well: for someone who doesn’t know where he’s headed, no wind is favourable.
Now that the wind blows again we reorient our personal and corporate helm to reach where we want to go, bearing in mind that without justice (giving each one what is his), there will be no sustained growth.