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Actionable Goals

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 6.53.37 AMIn a previous post, we spoke of Blue Sky Goals. They not only allow you to dream big, but they begin to give clarity to the direction you want to head into. This post defines the kinds of goals that make Blue Sky Goals a reality. This post defines those goals that fall underneath.

Defined Results

The first of these are about defining results. Often these are referred to as goals themselves, with other goals being referenced as objectives, milestones or accomplishments. But results are, in essence, about accomplishing the big picture. Unlike Blue Sky Goals, we are actually centering our focus on a very tangible result.

For example, in an automotive factory you might have many objectives or activities centered on the pace of production, having parts readily available, or reducing the number of defects. But the end achievement or result is a completely manufactured car.

In a healthcare setting, wellness might be the end result—measured by a successful surgical outcome or the ability to leave the hospital. But it would be accompanied by many other activities or objectives that might include keeping blood pressure from going too low, being able to go through a physical rehabilitation program, or not having ill effects from prescribed medications.

Here are some other examples:

Example 1: Become the country’s number 1 rated customer service provider in cloud computing.

Example 2: Build a new regional headquarters.

In each example, there will be many other sets of goals that will get you to your end result. Most of those goals will encompass the following three sets: Project Goals, Continuous Improvement Goals, and even Limit/Parameter Goals.

Project Goals

With the results in mind, we can start specifying activities to take action on. These are project goals with start and end dates. Typically, these involve milestones or steps you need to take along the way. They will involve specific actions you will seek to accomplish. Here are some examples:

Example 1: A university seeks to establish new majors in its engineering department.

In this example, there will be a number of activities to determine which majors to establish, the curriculum that will fall therein, the people who will teach those courses, and the students that will be invited to enroll.

Example 2: A software group works to build its first software release.

Goals around initial research, establishing the design of the software, alpha, beta and other release dates will be established here. Project goals contain many steps in attaining the ultimate result.

Continuous Improvement Goals

Sometimes there are continuous improvement activities where measures are gradually achieved over time. It’s not a done deal with time to move on to another activity, but rather an ongoing improvement. But like project goals, they still involve specific actions you will seek to accomplish. Here are some examples:

Example 1: The engineering department wants to increase enrollment by 5% annually.

Example 2: A software group seeks to dominate 38% of the market share.

In both of the previous examples, they were already enrolling students, and selling software. The situation here is in the improvement of those activities, not in the creation of those activities.

 Limit/Parameter Goals

Sometimes it’s not about growth or accomplishment. Rather than accomplishing something, or improving upon what you did previously, it’s about making sure you don’t do something, or that you put limits on what you are doing. In this instance, you are identifying requirements that put a border around activities occurring that you want to avoid. They may even include things you never want to accomplish. Consider the following examples:

Here are some examples:

Example 1: A warehouse wants to go at least six months without employee injuries on the job.

 Example 2: An organization wants to ensure that no one is hired without having gone through a background check.

Note that there is considerable thought leadership that framing a goal positively is better than something negatively outlined. For instance, would you phrase a goal as follows?

Example 3: A zoo would never want to lose an animal to premature death.

Or would you do the following:

Example 4: A zoo wants to ensure that all their animals live to at least 85% of their full life expectancy.

Both examples are good, but they may very much lead to taking very different actions. Consider that the actions that would align to the first example might be more reactive in nature, but the actions in the second example might lend to more proactive, even anticipatory action.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for where a line is drawn in the sand, and you collectively determine that it will never be crossed. But you want to be aware as you craft these kinds of goals.

What’s Your Goal?

Of course, any goal that gives momentum to accomplishment is a good goal. But thinking about your goal in terms of its type might give you insight as to how you should approach that goal. What are the results you are trying to accomplish? Are there things you are trying to prevent? Are there results you are trying to roll out and accomplish? Are there activities you are trying to improve upon? What are the goals you are seeking to take action on?

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