Effective goals setting is a disco where ambition dances with real-life constraints. One of the most common questions I am asked is how to set an effective goal. The first thing I like to impart on my audience is to start with your long term high level-goals. To solidify these highest-level goals provides a framework to organize associated tasks.
One of the potential pit falls in goal setting is to focus on the immediate problem with disregard for the impact on long term goals. This can take the form of setting unrealistic expectations of clients, unsustainable efforts, and conflicting priorities.
In every step of the goal setting process a contributor should be thinking “How will this impact my long term”. Imagine a business based in a subscription model of service. The organizations long-term goal is to continue to grow and expand. To date the organization is not operating at full capacity and does not have current opportunity to grow or expand. The organizations price point is $70 per month. When faced with the challenge of recruiting new members it is tempting to offer a discounted membership rate. For example if they offered a rate of $5 per month they would likely increase their membership dramatically in the short term. In setting an unrealistically low price point they will temporarily sky rocket their new members. However once the more realistic price point of $70 per month is introduced to the members that signed on at $5 that rocket will fall out of the sky. In setting an unrealistic client expectation initially the organization moved further from their goal by waiting services and efforts on clients that were not realistically going to subscribe at the necessary price point. When setting an effective goal it is important to base the goal on a
Realistic expectations, it is critical to prioritize the long term goal over short term successes.
In the software industry I saw countless examples on long-term successes sacrificed due to unsustainable efforts intended to reconcile immediate problems. For example as engineers charged with releasing a fix we would often be asked to work nights / weekends / 24 x 7 in order to repair the immediate problem. The undesired side effect was the lack of passion and energy left over for long term feature development. Unsustainable efforts led to more fixes in the future while simultaneously lowering the effectiveness toward development.
Incidents of conflicting priority can leave professionals spinning in circles. Stop the spiral by dissecting the problem according
to long term impact and opportunity to execute.
The amount of time and effort spent on one task necessarily detracts from the time and effort spent on a separate equally important task. As always I say let the long term be your guide. Prioritize your tasks based on their long term impact. If you find yourself in a situation where each of the conflicting tasks are top priority than make a determination based on ability to execute. Which task can you make the most traction on in the least amount of time? Once you determine which you can execute on immediately prioritize that task in the hopes that there will be time left to accomplish the second task.
In the dance of goal setting grace manifests in the ambition and rhythm in understanding the necessary tradeoffs. In order to master the steps it is important to understand the potential miss steps. For this dance miss steps can appear in the form of short term success with long term sacrifice, unsustainable effort that leads to long term sacrifice, and conflicting priorities that lead to inaction. Awareness of these clumsy moves can assist in a flawless execution of our goal setting performances.
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