Goals: The Finish Line & Beyond

Group process can focus or delay goal attainment - by Tim, CC Flickr

Group skill impacts achieving the goal.  Photo by Tim, Flickr”People seldom hit what they do not aim at.”

“If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.”  ~  Jim Rohn

This is the third article in a series of three explaining the MCG model for group development – Membership, Control, Goal. If you’ve ever been in a new or reformed team or group that seemed to take its time getting to task, you may have been experiencing the investment stages of membership and control.  Start-up businesses are easy evidence of this.

NOTE:  This post was updated slightly in 2013 with larger type and current references.

When crossing over successfully to the goal stage, control issues (last month’s post) have been resolved so that the team is fully fit and ready to act on a commonly understood goal and a plan to achieve it.

Achieving a common understanding of the goal may not be a simple task.  The premise on which a group or team was formed may not be the same as what the goal is or needs to be.

Another complication could be that the original goal may have never been fully understood or discussed openly. Individual goals may also come into conflict with group goals.  Conflict in clarifying goals is not necessarily a bad thing.  If the group uses conflict to learn and mature, dealing with such issues as hidden agendas, power, and relationships, the goal is usually well within reach.  The alternatives include  having a group that subdivides into camps or cliques, usually going backward into the control stage.  This can be used for learning, or it can be a stultifying blockage for a group.

Here are nine (9) questions that can help your group or team progress to & through the goal stage:

  1. What do WE want to accomplish?
  2. Do we all know and agree on what our goal is?
  3. What do we want to see happen?
  4. How will we know when we’ve done it?
  5. Are there personal goals that are in conflict with the goal of the group?
  6. What methods will we use to achieve these goals?
  7. What are the timelines for achieving sub-goals and the ultimate goal?
  8. Who is doing what, when (action plans)?
  9. Do we need approval once we find possible solutions?

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How to set goals for today’s more volatile environment?

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Some leaders struggle in defining clear goals.    Valid reasons might include shifting customer needs, awaiting data or lack of data to refine focus, or group/team member relationships and/or dysfunction that is blocking commitment to the goal.

A recent book that helps leaders better understand how to set goals for today’s more volatile environment is:  Beyond Performance Management: Why, When, and How to Use 40 Tools and Best Practices for Superior Business Performance

The MCG model on the tools page here includes the word “data” in the center.  When a group is stuck, going back to the previous stage  (from Goal to Control, or from Control to Membership) while gathering data often helps uncover the issue or blockage.

Many leaders reference SMART goal setting.  It’s important to know that SMART was derived from project management, in order to meet deadlines.  SMART may not produce a strategic, vision oriented goal, so consider multiple ways for how goals can be developed.

A five minute brainstorm, ,for example, with those who know the situation or those who don’t (fresh insights) can results in powerfully written goals.  Goals can also be downsized to milestones or incremental goals, such as those involving research or simply slowing down to stop and listen to customers so that appropriate, high level goals can be developed to meet and anticipate what customers need next.

From a previous blog post, here are two tools for focusing and writing goals that can help you be more strategic as a leader:

#1)  What’s important? This is a simple, but powerful question. Once you surface what’s important for your group, consider how to develop possibilities to help your group get to the right results. (See IMULL here for four more.)

#2) What is the right thing, the right time, the right people, the right reasons, the right way, in the right place to achieve this goal (See the full reference here.)

One well known, often cited example of a good goal that captured a nation’s imagination is:

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I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”   ~ May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy

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Goals can be even more strategic and inspirational if they tell a story, such as how the preferred future will look, how it will feel, how people will work within it.

The following practical book provides a handy step back to view a broader picture of what goals are meant to do.  In Six Disciplines for Excellence, Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead and Last ~ Gary Harpst* lists his approach for building your business to the point that you can sustain excellence. The Six Disciplines of Excellence are:

1. Decide What’s Important.
2. Set Goals That Lead.
3. Align Systems.
4. Work the Plan.
5. Innovate Purposefully.
6. Step Back.

Gary’s 6th step includes a key piece that can be a fatal flaw of goal setting, that is, in not checking how goals must be adjusted and flexed as the world continues to change. At least have a yearly step back–reflection meeting to broadly assess what is going on inside and outside your business to help you update and improve your strategies.   SWOT analysis, environmental scans, assessing current situation (what’s working, what’s not) are samples of the elements of this stage of the process.  These can be done quickly and provide valuable information on adjusting your goals.

Goals are also valuable as learning points. Why did the team reach or miss the goal?   Also remember, if the goal was achieved, celebrate!   If the goal was not achieved, it’s a great time to stop, reflect and learn.  In the spirit of continuous improvement, win or lose, the next question, and the end of this blog series is:  what’s next?

December’s blog entry, Right Sizing Your Education Options, is a guest post by Scott Wachtmann who completed an innovative non-traditional high school and higher education course of study.  If you are:

50s lobby card, by markbult, cc-Flickr

50s lobby card, by Markbult, cc-Flickr

•    in higher education
•    facing high school and college education choices
•    have children who are making education choices

you may find his story intriguing and challenging. complete with references.

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”  –JKF

Happy Thanksgiving & Happy Holidays!  (See the REVELN “Free Ride” Spyder greeting here.)

* Harpst, Gary; Six Disciplines for Excellence, Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead and Last; Synergy Books (April 30, 2007)

Thank you for visiting.  As always, I enjoy learning of your perspective, if you like what you are reading here, as well as hearing about your thoughts, resources and suggestions.

Best to your day, ~  Deb

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