Tag: objectives

SMART goals are rubbish but massive goals are better

Massive goalsYou may hear a lot of talk about SMART goals and then see lots of discussions (and possibly argument) afterward. The topic really gets under people’s skin.

First of all, let me admit that goal setting is NOT my specific area of expertise but I have taught it as part of Leadership and Management courses and I have come across many people who have struggled with the concept. I, therefore, have a reasonably logical argument as to why SMART goals are rubbish.

I can hear the howls now, but SMART goals are not possible. Remember what SMART stands for? T is the problem here. Goals cannot be associated with a moment in time. The issue is that we confuse goals with objectives. Objectives can be SMART but the question is, are SMART objectives good?

They may very well work for some people but what about the others? If you think in a linear fashion (I don’t and many creative people don’t either) then compartmentalising things and sticking labels on them just does not work. The concept does not work and neither do most of the recognised ways of writing them down (to do lists, Gantt charts, network diagrams, etc).

If you work like this then you might try creating a story and a storyboard. Think of it a bit like a train or a bus journey with timetabled stops at certain places (although the journey may meander a little).

This is all very well, I hear you say but where is this compelling reason to not use SMART as a way of getting things done. Well the real reason lies in human nature. We like to achieve things so many of us do not actually set objectives that stretch us. We set objectives that we can easily achieve. We can then reward ourselves and spend time telling everyone how much stuff we have to do when in fact we have set objectives which are far too easy.

Ease of achievement is also the main reason why many schools no longer teach children about SMART goals (or should I say objectives?). So, what is the latest thinking? How do we move forward?

The answer lies in massive goals. These really are massive not just big!

Imagine being told by Pharaoh that you had to build the Great Pyramid of Giza (image helpfully supplied above). You would not just go to B&Q and get a few bags of quick-drying cement or have a lorryload of bricks delivered by a builders merchant.

No, this would require considerable thought, considerable stretch, and motivation (although the threat of death might do that too).

Why all this Pyramid talk? Well, this is the key to attaining those massive goals.

Forget a moment about the hidden chambers and other wonders, let us focus on this enormous structure. How on earth could we build it? Think about how we might draw a pyramid.

There is the triangle that forms the outline and then rows of slab-like shapes that make up the inside.

Let me suggest that your massive goal, whatever it is, sits right at the top of this pyramid. Immediately below that are the last things that must be in place before you attain your goals. And the row below that contains the things that must be in place before these …… and so on.

So, we start from the bottom. These stones are objectives. Make them SMART if you want but please don’t make them too easy. Tick them off as you go and when you get to the top you should have achieved something really massive.

This works at many levels. For instance, we are building, working from the bottom up, have a funnel (of sorts) and we can focus only on the things that help us achieve our goal.

And finally, it makes a great picture on a whiteboard or flip chart that we can tick off of colour in.


Innovation Weak Points – Where Are Yours?

innovation weak pointsIn many cases it is our starting point that is a major weakness. Have we got our Innovation Strategy right? At what point do we commit energy and resources to bringing a new idea to market? Often the test is whether the new idea has potential for creating value for the organisation. Unless you have started a business from scratch, providing resources for your new idea may remove resources (people, money, materials) from other areas of your business. The question you must ask is not just ‘will it work?’ but ‘can we get it to work without any damage being done to our current business?’. Our Innovation Strategy is thus firmly tied to our long term objectives. Have you identified your innovation weak points?

Do you go with all of your new ideas if they look like they will work? How do you select which ones to work with? Selecting idea needs to be ruthless carried out. Ask yourself the following:

  • Does it work?
  • Is this aligned with our objectives and company values?
  • Can this be scaled up or transferred to a different cultural setting?
  • Does this help or hinder our other activities

In short our inventors must develop some business capabilities!

New ideas are complex. They are often generated to solve a problem but to get an idea to market may provide further challenges. A new drug may cure a disease but it may have side effects, be expensive or difficult to package or have a short shelf life. To create value you need to show how your new idea will create value for your customer perhaps through time, cost or efficiency savings. You cannot simply say, ‘Here is the new wonder drug’ and expect hospitals to be placing orders immediately.

How high do you set the bar when testing your ideas? Do you use objective or subjective tests? It is better to have a mixture of both and ensure that all of the criteria that you identify are met. Another way of testing is to use existing customers. They are often flattered when you think they are worthy of trialling your very latest innovation! But, not everyone does this!

A huge potential problem area is the window in time where your idea or prototype is turned into reality. Your development team throw the idea over the wall into production and think ‘job done’. Until you are selling gizmos buy the lorry load, everybody should still be contributing although the balance will change. You will need more human resources than you thought and also more cash. There is also a danger of stagnation as your new product or service falls into the gap between development and production. A highly motivated and charismatic leader is needed to ensure to see things through.

Do you have everything you need to get your new idea into the market? Have you considered external partners, especially if this might improve your success rate? Even if you have, how ready are you in terms of a) people b) protecting intellectual property? Sometimes the ‘missing ingredient’ needs to come from elsewhere.

Even when you have considered all of the above, have you spent time looking at the culture of innovation within our organisation? If innovation is a separate entity rather than embedded completely within the business, how do you cope with this? Do employees rotate through the innovation function and if not does this create tension? How is the learning from the development process captured and then disseminated? Just ask yourself, does the way we do things round here help our hinder our innovation efforts? You will be surprised at the impact that small changes can have.

Can Creativity flourish in your working environment?

Here are some golden rules that you can use as a checklist to see if a) creativity could flourish if you are looking to embrace it or b) to find out why your best efforts at being creative are failing dismally.

Here are some rules for dealing with things on a personal level:

  • Mindsets must change, even if the changes are small
  • Explore the ‘givens’, the problem boundaries
  • Look at the broad picture AND details
  • Value play
  • Build up, say ‘yes and’ not ‘yes but’
  • Learn to live with ambiguity
  • Don’t force creativity on people, nurture what is there
  • Involve other people
  • Be receptive, watch and listen
  • Know what your objectives are
  • Cycle often, close late – don’t just plump for the quickest option
  • Manage the process, if you don’t it will be a playground

… and here are some things from the wider environment:

  • Whatever you do must be fun!
  • Manage interpersonal differences, they will come to the fore
  • Manage status differences, these will appear too
  • Manage expectations, be realistic but have goals
  • Inhibition and risk need to minimised, people need to feel comfortable
  • Minimise group and critical pressure, use the first checklist to help here
  • Ban distractions, ban laptops and mobile phones for a day if necessary
  • Logistics, pay attention to small things such as decor, refreshments etc

Pay attention to the above and you have a good chance of succeeding. Now all you need to know is WHAT to do!