Fundamental #24: Know the Goal
The 30 Fundamentals that make up the “ConnectSMART Way” describe how we want to run our business – the way we treat our clients, the way we work with each other, and even the way we relate to our vendors and suppliers. They’re who we are and they’re the foundation of our success. They drive everything we do, every day. Each week we focus on a different fundamental and discuss in depth.
Fundamental #24: Know the Goal
Ask enough questions to get absolute clarity about the goal or the problem we’re trying to solve. Most wasted effort comes from confusion about the goal. Know the goal with certainty before you begin to work.
To be able to reach your goals you have to know them. It sounds pretty obvious. Yogi Berra said ‘Wherever you go, there you are”. I think most failures in life are directly related to not knowing the goal. There is a big difference between a wish and a goal. Most people today have wishes. They wish they were successful, or made more money, or had a new car, or had the perfect mate. The great thing about a wish is that it only requires a fairy godmother, a genie in a bottle (or a brass lamp), or pixi dust. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a unicorn around lately! The difference between goals and wishes are you. A wish doesn’t require any effort on your part, just dumb luck. A goal requires effort. It requires knowing what it is.
When Dave wrote on this fundamental he spoke about the SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. With this criteria to be a goal how many goals in your life are SMART goals? Be honest with yourself. How often to you just have ‘S’ and ‘T’, but skip over all the rest. I would argue that few to none of our goals have had the effort put in to identify meet the criteria of a SMART goal – unless of course it is a goal we have for someone else! Most advice on goals and goal setting include writing them down. Have you written down your goals? For yourself for others? Why not? I think most of the time we don’t is that it isn’t clear enough to actually write down. It is easier to give a general goal rather than specific marching orders. As I have thought about this fundamental, I have really been brought up short. I think that in reality, not only are we as individuals terrible at this, but as a company we have a long way to go. I know this may come as a shock to many. Our focus on metrics and measurements in the ConnectSMART company, our detailed focus on the business numbers for both Connections and ConnectSMART in Great Game of Business, weekly forecasts of every single line item in the P&L and a really high accuracy of our business numbers forecasting overall – you would think that this is one fundamental that we can bask in excellence and give ourselves a pat on the back. Not so much.
So how do we know the goal? This requires a lot of the other fundamentals. Particularly communicating to be understood (#16), get clear on expectations (#18), speak straight (#22) and listening generously (#23). The lack of clear communication dooms every goal to failure. I think we identify our goals way to quickly without introspection. We make them to big (and we can’t really define them) or too small (and they become irrelevant or on conflict with each other). We often like to think that we can do multiple things at once and multi-task. However we can really only do one thing at a time. We may be able to switch back and forth quickly enough to appear as if they are simultaneous, but in reality with very few exceptions we can only focus on one thing at a time. This is where our failures in setting goals come in. How many goals do you have each day? If our goals are not in alignment they end up being competing or conflicting goals. Without really knowing your goal the worst case is not missing your target, it actually is much worse than that. Like focusing on the wrong metrics can cause disaster through unintended consequences, not knowing your goal can actually cause you to move in the opposite direction! This is not an excuse for not doing anything. As Wayne Gretzky said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. This is absolutely true, but you have to know the goal to take a shot. If you aren’t quite sure what the goal is, invest the time to understand and internalize it. Write it down! If you can’t write it down it isn’t a goal. Once you understand it yourself then you can communicate it to others.
I know that we all have a long way to go on this fundamental, and I hope you will be honest with yourself this week on whether you are in a fantasy land hoping and wishing or if you have real goals, with real commitment to accomplish them. Whether it is your personal goals, your team, or the company goals make sure you understand them, and that they are in alignment with each other. Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try. If we have SMART goals we will reach them. With each accomplished goal we are one step closer to that BHAG. (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Each step closer more clearly defines it. The clearer it is, the easier it is to accomplish. Let’s know the goal together and reach it together!