Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Setting Goals - Strive to ASPIRE

Hard to believe that we are already into the 2nd month of 2014.  Literally 1/12 of the year is already past.  I don't know about you, but that is a bit frightening to me.  Perhaps the biggest reason is that I've just barely started nailing down my goals for the year.  Like many of you, I am sure that you've worked through your strategic plan and established your Annual Operating Budget.  You've probably already determined what gaps in your business need filled, and maybe even established big picture objectives.  If you are ahead of me, you've already worked with your direct reports on setting goals for the year.  If you are like me, you've barely set your own, let alone insured that your entire team has done this work.

Goal setting takes time and some solid thinking.  There are many methods for setting goals and many frameworks for how to ensure they are "good" goals.  SMART is the acronym used by many.  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  I have always thought that it seems a bit contradictory to set Annual Goals and consider them "timely", but I do know that I've often worked with people who set goals to accomplish things which require far too many events outside of their control to fall into place in order for them to even get started.  Obviously these are not good goals.

While a quick google search will identify a lot of resources about what makes for a good goal, I'd like to share a process which I believe will help to establish clear and effective goals.

The acronym I use is ASPIRE.  1) Assess your circumstances.  Just like Nehemiah did when he first arrived in Jerusalem (see my comments in Don't "Just Do Something."), we need to fully survey the current state of affairs and insure a thorough understanding.  2) Specify the future outcome.  We need to imagine and identify the future state we want.  The clearer we are about how we want things to be, the better.  3) Plan your action steps.  Establishing an action plan is critical to successfully accomplishing our goals.  These plans should clearly define what will be done, who will do it, and by when.  There must be a single person responsible for seeing the tasks completed and each person involved must understand their tasks.  4) Implement your action plan.  It is not enough to plan, we must execute our plan.  sooner than later, we must act.  We cannot plan for every possible situation, and we will never have all the information we need, but we must still proceed.  Moving forward to implement our plans cannot be delayed.  5) Report the status.  It is not what is expected that gets done, but what is inspected.  Regular reporting on the status is imperative to seeing progress.  This should include establishing an accountability plan for each member of your team.  If the goal is personal, then you should tell someone about the goal and arrange for this person to ask you about it regularly.  Reporting the status, good or bad, is a must if you are to reach your goals.  And 6) Evaluate.  If you have established regular reporting/check-up periods, then you will have time for proper course correction and thorough evaluation of how well you are executing your plans.  In addition, this step provides opportunities for reassessing the current state.  Perhaps before reaching your goal, the external circumstances have changed.  If so, this will require that you revisit your action plans.

Using this method of Assessing the current state, specifying the future outcome, planning your action steps, implementing your plan, reporting your status, and evaluating the results will allow you to get to successfully accomplish your goals.  Once you're there, don't forget to Celebrate.



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