Tag Archives: goals

What is Your Intention?

It’s January, annual reflection time. What are your intentions for the year?

More important than the ideas of your intentions, how will you make them more effective as guideposts, milestones, motivation and internal encouragement?

What is the form of your intentions? Like New Year’s resolutions that are forgotten, intentions can easily fade.

  • Define your intentions in written form.
  • Read your intentions out loud, in private.
  • Say your intentions out loud, in front of a group of people.
  • Give that group permission to hold you accountable.
  • Post your intention somewhere public, where you see it every day, where others see it every day.

You can start with a 3×5 card taped to your mirror.

For Well Over a Decade

“But, I thought, to do planning, the first step was to create some goals?” asked Nicole. “That’s what we have always done.”

I nodded. “That’s where most people start. And goals are important.” I stopped. “How do we make sure we are going after the right goals? And how do we make sure the targets are set high enough?”

“Well, we have to know where we are headed,” Nicole replied.

“Exactly, and that is what we have to define first.”

Nicole winced.

“There are a number of ways to do that,” I said. “We could take a picture, draw a picture, describe a picture of where we are going?”

“What do you mean?”

“A company I know, just finished a brand new building, something, as a team, they had been working toward as long as I knew them. For years, hanging on the wall, there was an artist’s rendering of that building. That was it. That was the vision. And everyone who walked by or sat in that office knew precisely where the company was headed.

“Year after year, without wavering, that picture stood inside the heads of the management team. It drove them to perform with that single thought in mind. Two weeks ago, they had their grand opening. It is amazing how that single visual picture drove their thinking, their performance, their goals for well over a decade.

“The first step in planning is vision.”

The Future Looks Like?

Miriam creeped into the conference so as not to disturb the rest of the meeting. Everyone was working hard on their business plan for 2021. “I’m having a bit of trouble,” she said. “I know all the steps for the plan, but I am just stuck.”

“And step one is what?” I asked. We were working with a structured planning model.

“Step one is to create the vision for my department. And that was easy. I think I got it all captured in a couple of sentences. It’s the rest of the plan that I am having difficulty with.”

“Interesting,” I replied, “that you can capture that much detail in two sentences.”

“Well, you are right,” Miriam confessed. “There isn’t a lot of detail, but I thought it would be better if it was short.”

“Miriam, here is the way the vision part of the plan works. The more detailed it is, the clearer the images are, the easier it is to write the rest of the plan. Instead of two sentences, write two pages. I want to know who your customers are and what services you provide. You probably have more than one customer segment, tell me how they are different and how your services to each are different? Tell me what position you hold in the marketplace, what your market share is? Who are your competitors? Tell me what your competitive advantage is, what are your core competencies? Who are your key personnel, how do you find them, how do you grow them? Tell me about your facilities, your plant? How do you control quality? How do you guarantee performance?”

Miriam left the room with a bit of thinking to do. A couple of days later, I read her vision statement. It contained all the detail we talked about and more. The plan that followed was clear and detailed, all driven by a carefully constructed word picture of the future.

The first step in the plan is vision.

Make Improvement Easy

Nicole had the numbers posted. She was still working side by side with the team, helping on the line, but at least the numbers were posted.

“But, we didn’t make our goal,” Nicole shook her head. “That’s why I was afraid to write the numbers on the white board, before.”

I ignored her body language. “Nicole, I want you to add another number to the board. I want you to post yesterday’s numbers next to the goal numbers. For right now, I just want you to focus your team on improvement over yesterday.”

“Well, that should be easy,” snorted Nicole.

“That’s the point. Make improvement easy. Then focus on it.”

How to Set Context With Your Team

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I hear you say that management is about setting context. I think I understand what that means, but I do NOT understand how to do it.

Response:
Culture is context. Setting context is the prime objective for every manager. Context is the environment in which work is done. Work is making decisions and solving problems. This is fundamental managerial work. Three moving parts –

  • Communicate the Vision. This is the future picture of a project, picture of a product in a package, the output from a service. This is what a clean carpet looks like.
  • Performance Standard. This is the what, by when. This is the objective in measurable terms. This is the goal – QQTR, quantity, quality, time (deadline or evaluation period), resources. The vision is full of excitement and enthusiasm, specifically defined by the performance standard.
  • Constraints. There are always constraints and guidelines. Budget is a constraint, access to resources is a constraint, time can be a constraint. These are the lines on the field. Safety issues are always a constraint. When the project is finished, you should go home with all your fingers and toes.

That’s it, then let the team loose to solve the problems and make the decisions within the context. Do not make this more complicated. It’s always about the fundamentals. -Tom

Routine Grooved Behaviors

“I understand,” Marietta replied. “I got it. The way you explained it, now I know what to do.”

“You understand, in one part of your brain, but in the heat of the day, another part of your brain will want to do what it has always done,” I observed.

“But, now, I know what to do differently,” she protested.

“And, when you walk into the situation, that other part of your brain will take over and you will fall back on your habits, your grooved behaviors, even if they were not successful.”

“I hope that won’t happen,” Marietta flatly said.

“The only way to act in your new understanding, is to practice, practice and practice, until your new understanding becomes a habit. Only then will you be able to execute in a new way. We think we choose our success, but we don’t. We only choose our habits and our habits will determine our success.”

The Curse of a Manager

“You look off-balance,” I said.

Renee shook her head. “Ever since I was promoted to sales manager, things are different. When I was on the sales team, things were exciting, always a new customer, a deal in limbo, a sale that closes, a sale that gets stalled. But there was always action. As sales manager, I only get to hear about that stuff from other people. I get to coach, but I never get to play.”

“What else is different?” I asked.

“When I was a salesperson, I was always focused on the day, or the week, at most a month or a quarter. Sure, I had my annual sales goals, but mostly, I only looked at what was right in front of me.” Renee took a breath. “Now, I live in the world of annual sales goals. My decisions are centered around how many salespeople on the team, which one is going off the rails, gauging whether our sales backlog is within the capacity of operations. Not very exciting stuff. And budgets. I am not just thinking about this year, I have to think about next year. The ops manager wants to invest in some automation and wants to know if I can generate enough sales to pay for it over the next three years.”

“So, the biggest difference is time span. You use to measure your success, or failure by the day or the week. You got constant juice from your deal flow,” I replied. “Now, there is no juice. You are working on goals that won’t be completed for one to two years. Oh, sure, you will soon know whether you are making progress, soon enough, but you won’t hold the result in your hands for quite some time. It’s the curse of a manager.

“But, here’s the thing,” I continued. “If all you ever think about is the next deal, the next customer, if everything you think about is short-term, then thinking about what needs thinking about, never becomes a priority. Planning never happens. Your ability to plan, your ability to think long-term atrophies. Making short moves in the needle is easy. Making large moves in the needle takes time. Most managers are too impatient to do that kind of thinking. They would rather get the juice.”

Good Busy or Bad Busy

“Whew,” Marcy plopped into the chair behind her desk. “What a day?”

“How so?” I wanted to know.

“Lots of things going on. Good things. Everybody was busy. Lots of work on our plate,” she explained.

“Good busy, or bad busy?” I asked.

“It’s always good to have work to do,” Marcy replied.

“How do you know?” I prompted. “The just dessert for hard work is more hard work. How do you know that the increase in activity is good, or not?”

Marcy was just trying to follow the discussion.

“Look,” I said. “Most people allow the events of the day to happen to them. They judge their lives by what happens to them. To be an effective leader, you have to judge whether those events move you toward your purpose or away from your purpose. Good busy or bad busy has to do with purpose. And without a purpose, without an objective, you will have no way to judge.”

Expectations as Clear as Mud

“Most of the time, your team members will do exactly what is expected of them, if they could just figure out, what that is,” I explained.  “When you observe underperformance, look for the cause.  It is usually in one of these five areas.”

  • Make the expectation (of output) clear.
  • Ensure the availability of required resources.
  • Validate the required skills and sufficient practice for the task.
  • Match the persons capability with the capability required for the task (measured in time span).
  • Ensure the person places a high value on the work (interest or passion for the work).
  • Ensure the person engages in reasonable behaviors required to complete the task.

“But I told my assistant that I needed the report ASAP,” Carolyn objected.  “When I went to find out the status, I found out the report had not even been started.”

“Let’s work through the list.  The expectations were clear to you, but were they clear to the team member?  What does ASAP mean?  You needed the report for the meeting on Friday, so ASAP could mean – as soon as possible before Friday.

“When I look at expectations, clarity of expectations, I think QQTR.  Quantity-Quality-Time-Resources.  If I miss any of these elements, then the expectation is not clear.”

  • What is the quantity of the output?
  • What is the quality standard (so I know what to count and what not to count)?
  • What is the time deadline, specifically, date and time?
  • What resources are available, or not available?

QQTR

Creating Goal Visibility

“Goals. Who needs ‘em?” asked Yolanda. “Every year, I set some goals. It’s kind of like my New Year’s Resolutions. By the end of February, I can’t even remember what they were.”

“Oh? So, tell me about your resolution for this year.” Yolanda looked a bit uncomfortable.

“Well, I haven’t exactly worked it out, yet. Until I am sure, I would rather not go blabbing it around.”

“Have you thought, perhaps, that’s why your New Year’s resolution never works?”

“What do you mean?”

“Yolanda, your New Year’s resolution never works, because you never committed to it. You never clearly defined it. Did you ever write it down?” Yolanda was silent. “Here is the management skill. Goals work just like New Year’s resolutions. If you really want to make a change, write it down. Then say it to yourself out loud. Then say it out loud in front of a group of people. And if you really want to make it stick, give that group permission to hold you accountable for the goal. Take that written goal and post it somewhere public, where you see it every day, where others see it every day. You can start with a 3×5 card taped to your mirror.”

What is your resolution this year? What major thing do you want to achieve? Have you written it down? Have you shared it with your team? I am curious. What do you do to keep your goals visible throughout the year?