Goals, Means and Objectives

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As you have seen I shared a Prezi video about SMART principles. I’ve been thinking lately about objective settings. It is true that there is no mandatory process to set up objectives for yourself, but it is proven experience that if you do, your salary review gets much easier 🙂 ! As such, we have seen more and more people doing that, and a practice emerging, even if we have no process. There is a lot of knowledge outside about how to optimize that practice, so we can learn a lot to avoid reinventing the wheel. Today, I would like to share about 3 principles : Business goals and personal goals, goals and means, goals and objectives.

Business goals and personal goals

At first it looks very simple : a business goal increases the money in the bank directly (on a billable project) or indirectly (hiring the right people), a personal goal increases my own value by contributing to my personal development (improve my english). But wait : if you improve your english, maybe on the next project we can charge you a higher rate, or we can send you to France to meet the client ? So in the long term, personal goals can be seen as business goals. Ah and also, if you succeed in your business goal, you will have a happy life and you can increase your salary… so in the long term, the business goal can be seen as a personal goal.

Aha … so it’s not black and white… classifying goals between personal and professional doesn’t work. Let’s call them ALL personal goals, because nobody wants to pursue a goals that doesn’t have at least some component that is raising yourself.

Now, there are other ways to classify goals :

  • Short term vs long term : I need to work on this project now to earn money at the end of the month, then I give myself 2 years to become english fluent.
  • External source (reactive) vs internal source (proactive) : this project opportunity is coming from someone else soliciting me, but in the meantime I have my own motivation coming from inside to do things that no one is asking for.

But no classification is perfect, the world is full of nuance, and that’s the beauty of it.

So what really matters is to look find a proper balance, a mix that makes your comfortable for the foreseeable future.

Goals vs Means

The Means describe how you can get to your Goal. For example, if your Goal is to go to France, then a Mean could be to learn french. But here is the trick : the Mean for one person, can be a Goal for another person. Or even for the same person, at different moment in time (my Goal this year is to learn french and as a mean I will attend french classes ; my Goal next year is to go to France, but I will keep learning french as a Mean)

So how to you make the difference between Mean and Goal ? Your satisfaction. What will make you happy ? Will you be satisfied just by attending the french class even if your french skill don’t progress ? I don’t think so…

  • A good way to find out if something is a Mean or a Goal is to close your eyes and imagine the future : what situation will make your happy ?
  • Another way is to use the 5 whys technique, to climb upward to the root of your intention. Very simple : ask why, why, why, why and why again !
  • But it’s better not done alone : as an influencer, it is important to help your influencees to identify what is a Goal and what is a Mean, at this present moment, through discussion.

The challenge with that satisfaction question is that it’s completely subjective, of course. What will satisfy you today, will it still satisfy you tomorrow ? It’s up to your own judgement. In order to create some stability though, it is useful to make a written statement in advance, saying to everyone “I will be happy in 6 months if…” Not only it helps you being aligned with your desire, but furthermore it helps the people around you to contribute positively to your happiness since they have an idea of your intention.

Goals vs Objectives

To give even more chances for your desired future to happen, the help of your environment is crucial. But the people around you, they are not in your brain ! So that is why it is useful to set S.M.A.R.T. Objectives and share them.

It is important to realize that the SMART Objectives are not your goal. They are outside facts. They describe an objective future, i.e. something that any outside observer and confirm. Like the symptoms of a disease : external telltale signs that reveal what is going on inside. So one can feel her Goals are reached while the associated Objectives that were described were not achieved. But as much as possible, it is good to describe Objectives that stick as closely as possible to your Goal. I want to speak english (goal), I will score 850 at TOEIC by December 31st (objective), I will take classes every week, sit next to Anthony every day, and go to the pub every saturday (Means).

Note that you can probably pay someone to pass TOEIC for you and you will get the certificate. You will achieve the Objective, but not the Goal. As a consequence you will certainly not be very happy about it. Unless you true Goal was not to speak english but to obtain a bonus (if you work in a company that gives bonus for that). So it’s good to set SMART Objectives, and when comes the time for a review, it is necessary of course to check them. And when checking they can be either : Done on time, Done later, Cancelled (will never be done), Ongoing (still expecting it to be done).

Important : by design, a SMART Objective cannot be 50% done ! Because it is SMART. If your objective was selling 1 Million€, and you sold 990k€, the objective is either not done (if you moved to something else) or ongoing (if you’re still running for it). Stop. No debate on the Objective like “Oh but wait I did 99%”. Keep your energy to debate on the Goals. So the Objective review part should be very quick.

Then, comes the important part : raise up your eyes to the horizon, look at yourself, look at your Goals. The Objectives are nothing more than just a flashlight to help you look at your Goals. But beware of the Streetlight effect ! Maybe the flashlight is not pointed into the right direction…

“-Bạn bị mất điện thoại ở đây? – Không, tôi đã mất nó trong công viên, nhưng ở đây có ánh sáng”

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