A Better Way to Work

Every January, the new year begins with goals and good intentions. Every new project, new initiative, new endeavor begins with envisioned outcomes and more good intentions. Life and business don’t necessarily cooperate; therefore, we make adjustments to our goals, regardless of our intentions.

Organizational goals identify “clear, quantifiable benchmarks to achieve success.” In other words, goals serve as milestones on the roadway to realizing the vision. The vision often focuses on a distant future, not immediate growth. As your business progresses toward that distant future, the environment can and probably will change. Unbelievers should remember back to the 2007, when the housing market imploded, launching the Great Recession which hit the country. Companies around the world scrambled to adjust. Or go back further to 1997 when the dot-com bubble burst and businesses suddenly realized that “clicks” did not equate to income.

Determine the Context

Setting goals without considering the context of success dooms the endeavor to failure. Context confers meaning. Therefore, in setting goals, Erica Olsen’s article “Goal Setting as an Art Form” suggests:

1. Identify the company’s competitive advantage: what need is your company trying to meet?
2. Identify your company’s purpose: why is your company trying to meet those needs?
3. Identify the steps or tasks that must be accomplished to meet those needs: what is your company going to do about those unmet needs?
4. Identify your company’s readiness to meet those needs: how is your company positioned to capitalize on its strengths, take advantage of opportunities, identify threats, and overcome challenges?

Once the information is thrown out there, organizational skills come into play to prevent the effort to achieve the goals that will lead to success from becoming a free-for-all melee. Goals without systems or processes in place to achieve them seldom come to fruition.

Measurable and Realistic

If you cannot measure the goal, then you cannot determine whether it’s been achieved. That means putting into place metrics that can show improvement or lack thereof. Such metrics need not be focused on dollars and cents, but can be determined by other things, such as a certain percentage in the reduction of waste or a certain percentage improvement in meeting deadlines.

Realistic expectations lend themselves to success. An unrealistic goal demoralizes people because it sets them up for failure. Unrealistic goals discourage effort. Realistic expectations also flex and bend and adjust with circumstances because events beyond your control will affect your business. Dedication to the process that leads to achievement encourages effort, adjusts to challenges, and keeps those desired outcomes on the radar.

Goals and Systems

In Psychology Today, James Clear challenges us to ignore goals and focus on the processes that achieve the desired results: “[W]hen it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things.” He illustrates the distinction between goals and systems with the example of content production. He calculated the total word count for the articles he’d written over a year and realized that, without having focused on the goal of writing a book, he’ written sufficient content to fill two average length books. Clear recommends committing to a process, not a goal, because goals tell you that you’re not good enough and won’t be until that goal is reached. For example, his focus on a system of writing one article every Monday and Thursday resulted in the production of over 115,000 words. Granted, more goes into a book than simply producing a certain quantity of words, but there can be no book without content.

A complex world and complicated business environment contribute to the uncertainty of any goal. A robust process rooted in realistic expectations leads the march toward success, even when the process must be tweaked to accommodate or circumvent obstacles.