Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 75 – Goal Setting

Welcome to 2009 and the first edition of the year. We hope you enjoyed the holiday season and for those of you who took time off – we hope you enjoyed the break and are now raring to get straight back into another year of many completed projects and personal goals fulfilled.

I also hope you found time to get started on your personal goal list whilst you were away from the office. Time away from the office is great creative thinking time (well I think so). I know how hard it can be to switch from the work side to the creative side after a full day at work and weekends always seem to be full of “other” stuff that needs to be done, we can be guilty of letting time drift by in a haze of “I’ll do that tomorrow”. So as we begin the New Year, I would like to talk to you about time and project management. I know it’s not very exciting, but these topics are the backbone to every completed goal. The better the planning and preparation there is, the faster the goal are achieved. But unless you are committed to making things happen then you will struggle with motivation and will find all sorts of ways to procrastinate over the assigned tasks and duties.

In this issue we will look at:

• Goal lists for 2009
    o Work goals
    o Personal goals
• A Thought to ponder.

Goal lists for 2009
Work goals

As we mentioned in the December issue on Team work, most people will not be working in isolation, but will have personal to do items as well as organisational “team” items. For the managers reading this, it is a good idea to start with your organisations future directions. I know this should come as no surprise to you, but you will be amazed by how many organisations don’t know what medium to long-term projects are on the board and how these will affect everyone within the organisation. They should know – where they want to be in the marketplace by a certain time, and they should know what they need to do (at least in broad strokes) in order to get there. The higher up the structure you tend to go, the more responsibility you will tend to get, especially in the project stakes.

It can therefore seem daunting when you know what the plans are for the next 5 years, but break it down – with input from those around you – what will need to be done this year in order to be on schedule for the projected completed date. Once you have the next 12 months worked out (in broad terms) then it is time to break it down into what needs to be done each month…then each week and then each day. You will know how many focus groups you will need to have and you will know whether or not your resources (usually computing, information and people) will cover the new requirements. Then of course you can negotiate with managers for all of the above and maybe additional funding. Rarely can you expect to take on a new project without losing some of the other tasks. Of course, there will be occasions when you can take up the slack, but given the fact that some organisations use natural attrition to cut costs but maintain the same service levels, there may not be any slack to take up. If that really is the case, then it is time to negotiate. These are the tasks I am currently doing, and this is what you would like me to complete – which item(s) now get priority? And don’t forget to get it in writing.

One thing that most managers fail to remember is – most people aren’t as motivated with organisational goals as the people who will directly benefit – which are usually the owners and shareholders of the organisation. So – always you need to ensure you answer the age old question of “what’s in it for them / me” – apart from keeping my job and paying my salary that is.

Unmotivated staff will always find ways to avoid doing their part. Imagine if you like a factory conveyor belt. If the person on the end can’t see the benefit of adding his / her bit to the item being created, then the work behind will get backed up, or the item will be faulty because of a lack of quality control.

Time and project management are essential elements to consider when setting new goals, but then so is change management and the people who will be responsible for making those things happen.

Personal goals
Personal goals can be harder to determine. Most people fall into the “I know what I don’t want” scenario they find it hard to work out what they do want.

One of the most important reasons about having a goal is that – having one. After all it should start you on your way towards achieving it – whatever it is. But sometimes the humps and bumps of normal daily life gets in the way and sooner or later the goal is all but forgotten.

You can of course stick notes and post reminders – everywhere. You can repeat your goal mantra like – and for some of you – this may work….for a while. One thing I have noticed is this – sooner or later, you can fail to see these things….your eyes slide over them – but they no longer “see” them.

So why bother setting goals?

Well a goal isn’t just about the end result – but the journey you have to take to reach it. If a goal doesn’t inspire you to change in order to reach it – what’s the point – you will have achieved your “goal” without much in the way of effort, or failed to achieve your goal at all – which is more likely.

Imagine each goal you want to set and achieve is a destination. Like a holiday destination. But the “holiday” doesn’t just begin when you reach your destination – but starts the minute you decide you want to go there, and start to plan it in all its glorious detail.

The “journey” is part of the goal. If you don’t enjoy the journey you are less likely to be able to enjoy the end result.

So – lets take this apart a bit further.

Taking the example of “I want to go on holiday in 2009, the questions you should be asking yourself include:
• Where do you want to go?
• Why there and not somewhere else?
• Where will you stay?
• How will you pay for it?
• How will you get there?
• How many weeks do you want to be away for?
• Who will travel with you?
• Will you need transport when you arrive?
• What do you want to see whilst you are there?
• Are there things you want to see / take in on the way?
• Where do you find information on the destination / journey / accommodation options?
• Do you need to learn a new language?
• Do you need shots?
• Do you need to lose a few pounds?
• Do you need to save a few pounds (or dollars or …..)
• Do you need a new wardrobe?
• Do you need a new suitcase?
• How are you going to achieve it?
• What are you going to do today in order to move the goal item forward?

Ask these kinds of questions of any of your goals and you will soon be able to cement in your mind whether the goal is one that you really want to pursue or whether it is something you only think you want.

Each of these kinds of questions is a reason to ask yourself WHY? Why do I want this and not something else? Why do I want to go there and not someone else? What difference will it make to my life if I achieve this goal?

And perhaps the most important questions of all

  • What will happen if I don’t achieve this goal?
  • Will I regret not doing it?
  • What if I had just 3-6 months after which time this goal item will no longer be available to me….ever again…how will I feel then?

Each one a powerful question – and each should give you a powerful reason as to why.

Spend some time (and I don’t mean dust off last year’s New Year’s Resolutions and change the date) determining what you want your life to look like by December 2009. If you are completely happy with everything in your life as it is – then you are one of the few people who may not need to set goals. But for those of you who would like to make a few changes, then look at everything you currently do and ask whether or not you need to make some minor adjustments or some major changes. These form the basis of your medium goals. Your short term goals should form the stepping stones to your medium term and eventually your long term goals. For example – If your goal is to pay off your mortgage, then (unless you have a business that can make you lots of money quickly) you will need to set a new budget goal each year until you get there. Each short term goal may be as simple as – I will not buy 1 coffee each day for a year (which will save you about a $1,000 – if you indulge).

Of course there are lots of good websites and books on goal setting – but these questions will determine how serious you are about making changes to your current situation and ultimately your life.

With many thoughts