When I look at the successes and failures in business, I think I have found a consistency between them.
The successful businesses remember their primary objective and the businesses that fail forget what they are working for.
Let's put a practical example with this concept.
I am not sure that anyone would disagree that Harley-Davidson is a pretty incredible brand. In fact, Justin Foster calls Harley-Davidson a bacon brand. At one point, like many brands, Harley lost it's way. It found its way back, almost by the skin of it's teeth and has emerged more powerful than ever.
Among all this, one of the key reasons it is a successful brand is because they are careful to remember their primary objective... their primary mission. Harley's mission is:
We ride with our customers and apply this deep connection in every market we serve to create superior value for all our stakeholders.
It is through this commitment to one, single, defining objective that make businesses successful. When businesses forget who they are and try to split their focus, they find themselves in a position of losing power and heading for a great fall.
Perhaps this is the problem with the yahoos in Washington (no offense meant to Yahoo!). There is not one, single, defining objective for anyone in Washington right now... perhaps not since Ronald Reagan has there been any unifying focus.
Congress is focused on getting re-elected and their own pet projects.
Obama is focused on jobs -- no healthcare -- no blaming Bush -- no jobs -- no fundraising -- no Pakistan/Afghanistan -- no jobs -- no an inherited economy -- I think you get the idea.
Political ideals aside, I defy you to point to any one objective that Washington is focused on. I mean really focused on. I'm talking about a prime directive that everyone looks to when a new program or a new idea is proposed and asks, "How does this thing help us to meet our primary objective."
I don't care if you are running a small business or a large business. I don't care if you are creating a marketing plan or setting a home budget. I don't care if you are tasked with running a country. If you don't know what your primary objective is, you are going to flounder. If you don't get to the point that you can finally figure it out... well, then you will fail. And when you fail, you will fail spectacularly.