Ways to Set Goals That Work In The Real World

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The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.– Michelangelo Buonarroti, Renaissance artist

Management and organizations go hand in hand and so does the advice: Set your goals if you want to accomplish something substantial. From personal coaches, self-help gurus, project managers to motivational speakers and managers, the philosophy of setting goals and planning is deeply entrenched in every management professional’s principles and practices.       

Businesses often follow a specific motivational and performance strategy that widely concentrates on setting goals. Nevertheless, this doesn’t immune setting goals from criticism. There have been reports, speculations stating a counterproductive effect of the practice.

Goal setting in personal and professional life
Our society follows a habit of setting individual and professional goals and organizations often follow setting "stretch" goals or even "audacious goals." Goals are often associated with accomplishment and the culture we follow wouldn’t consider a business successful and flourishing unless it achieves its annual/monthly goals.

The cycle of planning, setting goals, accomplishing projects follows thereafter and leaders habitually put the theory of motivation to use in organizations so the employees strive to achieve better results. Goal setting comprises a chief portion of project management and below illustrated template of five steps is frequently referred to for goal setting:
  1. Write the goals down
  2. Get a clear vision of the goals in terms of results/outcome and describe them to team
  3. Elaborate how goal accomplishment will be evaluated
  4. State goal timelines and project deadlines
  5. Attach rewards/incentives for accomplishment and clarify punishment for failing to accomplish

Project managers, academicians, research professionals, self-help gurus, etc all focus on goal setting goals to initiate any project successfully.

Goals, why they don’t work and what can you do about it?


There is no solid proof that setting goals would lead to their accomplishment.
While goal setting forms an indispensable part of planning, it doesn’t focus on the procedure that employees and team needs to follow to achieve the goals. Often the goals may be farfetched or too unrealistic for the team to attain. Merely the intention of accomplishing a goal is not sufficient. Designing an action plan so the team can smoothly move towards the goals is integral.

Aubrey Daniels in her book Oops! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time And Money that upholds the argument that stretch goals don’t work effectively for management. Some of the reasons why goal setting doesn’t work include:

Comfort zone and Procrastination

A destructive reason that keeps the team/professionals from achieving goals is their inability to move out of the comfort zone and kick laziness away. Even professionals procrastinate and tomorrow transforms into next week, month, years! Eventually, the goals are never reached. Although they don’t procrastinate by choice, it’s an innate tendency that becomes difficult to avoid.

Laziness is productivity’s worst enemy and as long as your team keeps succumbing to procrastination, you can’t meet deadlines and attain goals.

Project managers should follow a daily target template to ensure that the team moves towards completion of the goal steadily every day. Following this template will help project managers in saving time and it will foster a habit of regular reporting among the team making them more accountable.

Focus
Focus is absolutely essential for any team that is striving to achieve goals. Not having focus is like not having direction when driving. How will you get to your destination if you don’t have one? Not having a map or GPS and proper directions will get you stranded. Teams often fail to materialize goals, but don’t build team focus. Without focus, you can’t start a journey and can’t reach your destination.


Another issue may be distractions that keep you from focusing. Weeding them out systematically is highly important for any organization to maintain focus.

Project managers can give the team access to easy project management software that they will be able to operate. This software can involve practicing fun focus boosting exercises amongst the team every few days.

Biting Off More than You Can Chew

Often inexperienced project managers may set unachievable goals that may overwhelm your team. A long list of goals may turn the team hazy and further demoralize them. Making long list isn’t sufficient, following a fully functional action plan is absolutely necessary. Unrealistic goals may disappoint your team, ruin their confidence, limit their working prowess and wreck their focus and performance.  

Goal planners and project managers should foresee circumstances and weigh goals better before they set them. Setting unrealistic goals or distributing too many tasks at once will inhibit the team from focusing on one specific task and finishing it on time. The team should be self-aware of their capacity and take one task at a time to complete it well.

Pessimism


Harboring a negative sentiment towards work and reliving an unhealthy experience is the death of any project. When you team gives in to pessimism, you can’t expect cultivation of energy or efforts towards improvement. Often, team members or sometimes managers get sucked into the bubble of repeating a negative incidence from past and often encourage pessimism because of it. But pessimism destroys vision, weakens the foundation of growth, and wanes a team’s efforts towards self-improvement.

While human doesn’t control destiny and future, strategized efforts can bring promising results. Pessimism and lack of enthusiasm kills every chance one has to bring about a change.

A project manager should organize routinely programs to boost positive work culture among the team. Encouraging the team and appreciating them throughout the project will help in maintaining a constructive view.

Excuses

While you may have handpicked your team, you can’t avoid the possibility of damage and circumstances not working in your favor. Some people might deliver better than others while some may fail altogether. Nevertheless, when dealing with a project, what matters is their ability to deal with failure and circumstances. Great management professionals never blame other people or make excuses. Those who do must alter their behavior to accept that everything may not work in their favor but they should plan ahead and foresee circumstances to avoid crashing goals.

Excuses are roadblocks that strangle a project and a project manager can’t expect to grow and fulfill tasks until his team denounces resorting to excuses. A good practice is that the team and managers should focus on being more responsible and accountable for individual and collective tasks to avoid surrendering to excuses.

Setting Goals in real world can be difficult but with adequate implementing practices, it isn’t impossible. Good project managers tread through harsh and pessimistic times with effective strategies. The real world is harsh, unpredictable and not flawless. The ever changing terrain forces a project manager to resort to upgrading his/her approach to attaining the goals.

Author Bio: David is a technical writer, his works are regularly published in various papers and top-notch portals. His rich experience in Project management domain helps him offer latest and fresh perspective on improved efficiency in work flows across organizations. His informative works on similar lines can be reached out on ProProfs Project.

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