The Man on the Moon Principle

In 1961, President John F Kennedy famously announced his goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth before the decade was out. As we know, in July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon, and were brought back to Earth safely, achieving JFK’s goal.

At a time when most people hadn’t even been on an airplane, landing on the moon would’ve felt unachievable and overwhelming. However, such a massive goal united people with a purpose; the story goes that even a cleaner mopping the floor at the space station said his job was to help put a man on the moon.

So, how did they make the goal achievable? They broke it down into milestones, with each one taking them closer and closer to achieving their ultimate goal.

The first milestone was to achieve lift off. So, they set about resolving this challenge. The next milestone was to reach orbit, so they had a team working on this milestone. Then, they had to reach the moon’s atmosphere, land safely on the moon, take off from the moon, enter Earth’s atmosphere and land safely back down to Earth.

You can see how breaking the goal down into milestones gave everyone a more achievable objective to focus on which was less overwhelming. Those milestones were then broken down into the actions which needed to be completed. Each action was essentially a small step towards reaching the ultimate goal.

We can use this principle in our planning.  

Start with a 12-month goal, then break this into milestones on your way to achieving the goal. What milestones will you reach in the next 90 days? What actions do you need to complete each week to reach them?

You might have a longer-term goal you’d like to achieve within 5-10 years. Follow the same process of identifying the milestones and the actions you need to get there. What’s an important goal that will unite your team in a common purpose? When you’ve identified your goal, break it down into milestones and actions. Don’t forget to celebrate when each milestone has been reached.

If you need help making a plan for your organisation or breaking your goals down into milestones, get in touch.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” - Lao Tzu

"I have had regular monthly coaching with Michelle for two years, I found Michelle kind and thoughtful, also analytical. It is helpful each session to review the numbers, budgeting and discuss forecasting with the different events that are occurring in the trust regularly. Each meeting our discussions resulted in myself as CEO to understand the numbers more and receive helpful tips towards improving our financial reporting to make them more readable and understandable to the board."

Catherine Percy, CEO Crescendo. May 2021