Lost without a goal

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I can’t operate effectively without some kind of goal. Let me clarify that. Without some kind of goal I am directionless. I’m easily distracted from any focus I might have started with by other things that crop up. I end up flitting from one thing to another, multitasking. I become anxious and frustrated. I lose my sense of priority. I end up working on things that don’t add value and I create lots of work-in-progress. It only gets worse the longer I go without being able to check in against some goal. I suspect most people are like this.

Goals encourage people to aspire

A goal gives me a heading, a direction to move in. It is a statement of intent that guides my efforts. It is an aspirational force that gets me to question my assumptions, challenge the status quo, and think differently about what’s possible. Just because something is actually impossible doesn’t mean it can’t be a goal. Mastery and perfection can never be achieved. But in pursuit of these goals it’s possible to move closer to excellence, to improve on the now, to improve one’s technique, to make something simpler and more elegant.

Targets make people cheat

In organizations, management by objectives set targets to drive operations. A target is understood to be a level to beat. Falling short of the target is bad. Hitting the target is good. Exceeding the target is great. The more the better basically. Let the gaming begin! Targets drive the wrong behaviours.

What’s the difference?

Targets are about achievement. Goals are about growth. The difference is mindset.

Simon Baker
Simon Baker
Simon Baker is chief swashbuckler at Energized Work, a guerrilla technology lab based onboard HMS President in London. Simon cofounded Energized Work and in 2009 received the Agile Alliance Gordon Pask Award. He speaks internationally about applying agile and lean principles and techniques in business, software development, and information technology. With 22 years experience delivering software in the media, retail, healthcare, financial services and banking sectors, Simon is a leader doing things differently to find out what matters and get the right things done in the right way. He isn't afraid to question conventional thinking and disrupt the status quo. Simon feels strongly that work shouldn't feel like work and he has a track record creating exciting working conditions that help people change the way they deliver software for the better.

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