03 Aug Goal-Crafting and the Four Elements of a “GOOD” Goal
Excerpt from the book “The Alternative Response Method” to be released this fall.
One of the chapters in my upcoming book, “The Alternative Response Method” is called goal-crafting – understanding the elements of a “good” goal.
A “good” goal, in ARM parlance, is one that meets the following criteria:
- It must be principled: is the goal in alignment with your individual (or organizational) principles?
- It must be strategically crafted: is the goal strictly based on facts and good data?
- It must be attainable: Do you, or your team, have the capacity to reach it? Do you have everything you need to attain the goal?
- Gut check: Does it meet your “what then” analysis (WTA)?
This blog will focus on the WTA.
Goals, by definition, are forward-looking events. We as individuals or part of an organizations, are at point A and want to get to point B.
We run into problems, however, when we don’t consider a WTA.
A WTA requires us to imagine that we have accomplished the goal, and then evaluate the goal from the viewpoint of having already achieved it.
If our goal is to move from point A to point B, then the WTA requires us to look at point B (the accomplished goal) from point C, D, and so forth. Some of the questions we must ask ourselves, from that point in the future are: Was it worth the resources? are the results what were expected? Was there a better path? If we had to do it over again, what would we do differently?
Of course, there are going to be assumptions associated with any WTA, but the value is in the thinking, and looking back at the process you’re about to embark upon.
I have space for only a couple of examples, but I hope once you start mulling over WTA and apply it to goals you’ve worked on and are familiar with, you’ll see it applies everywhere. When used properly, it will save individuals and organizations vast amounts of resources, the most important of which is scarce and irreplaceable time.
A relevant example is when I was working on a material failure on balconies at a downtown condominium association.
The board hired a highly competent engineering firm to conduct a comprehensive failure analysis. The cost of this report was substantial, took many weeks to compile and, upon completion, was worthless.
There was no one to litigate and all warranties had expired. However, the solution to the problem (repainting) was the same before the report was compiled, as it was after it had been completed.
The problem (point A), was the paint failure. The solution (point B), was fixing the problem. The Board went another direction which had no bearing whatsoever on point B. They failed to do a simple WTA, and “look” at the report as if it had already been completed.
The question that the board asked of the engineering firm was, “can you tell us why this failed?” The question the board should have asked was, “What is the best way to fix this problem?”
We were in exactly the same situation years ago when a large industrial facility experienced a substantial coating failure, on concrete, and requested that my firm perform a comprehensive failure analysis. I pointed out that, unless they were going to sue someone, or use the report as leverage for warranty enforcement, than no, they should not pay me for a failure analysis, but instead hire me to develop a mitigation plan, which they did.
I’ll close with a brief, true story. I was flying to a technical conference in Florida when a woman in her late 20s dressed in business casual sat down next to me. She was in marketing for a medical device company.
She earned a music degree from Northwestern University and was a gifted Opera singer. Her fiancé had a master’s degree in music and played the cello, also, highly competent and gifted.
Upon their graduations, however, neither one could find a job. The woman, as we spoke, nearly broke down.
“Everyone kept encouraging me,” she bemoaned. “Telling me how great I was. To follow my passion. But no one was talking to me about getting a job. Paying off student loans. How much a car costs or rent. And it’s the same for my fiancé.”
A simple WTA would have caught this issue before she entered college, where, perhaps she could have obtained a degree that would provide her with a quality of life she wanted, and deserved, and perhaps a minor in music.
Performing a WTA, though sometimes unpleasant, and challenging, is an absolute necessity before embarking on any substantial goal. Not doing a WTA is like learning how to fly without understanding how to land.