Elyria Foundry was losing $3 million a year on revenues of $4 million when Gregg Fosterpurchased it in 1983. As the company got back on track, Foster began outlining for employees the business's revenues and profits, the new bonus pool, andimprovements in attendance and scrap reduction. Looking for a way to focus people even more, he figured he had to give them information about the future,not just the past. So the managers at the metal-castings company, in Elyria, Ohio, began drawing up a one-page list of the company's goals for thecoming year.

The process starts in November. Managers take suggestions from their departments and submit 5 to 10 goals to Foster, who incorporates items ranging from"build small casting capabilities" to "99% attendance" onto a single list. At the annual meeting in December, he then explains what the company will beshooting for in the coming year.

"I started the goals as an excuse to measure our performance for the annual meeting," says Foster. "I wanted to be able to put up on the overhead projector alist that would light competitive fires." Short and succinct is the rule; most strategic plans, says Foster, are "usually so ethereal that they don't make sense."He also looks for measurable, particular goals. "They're specific, but they also create a picture of how we want to be. They give us things to talk about."