It is that time of the year again when we reflect on the past year and give thought to the year ahead. We think about goals and resolutions. We think about the good and the bad from the past year as well as our hopes for 2016.
Many of us will make up BHAGs – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals but we will rationalize things when we fall short of achieving some or all of them at the end of the year. Rather than make huge goals with a greater likelihood of not achieving them, why don’t you create a list of incremental goals? Why not try to move the needle a little rather than a lot? Even moving the needle a little is more than you may have managed all of the last year.
It is the same with innovation. Making big bets can be costly if you are wrong. Making small or short-term bets may have a greater likelihood of achievement. Progress is made over time with some small bets rather than with one or just a few big, riskier bets.
I am not suggesting that you go easy on yourself and make a list of goals you can likely achieve easier than falling off of a log. I am suggesting that you use S.M.A.R.T. goals that are specific (S), measurable (M), achievable (A), reasonable (R), and time-bound (T). Playing loose with your goals won’t help so give each letter and the associated word the proper consideration.
If you are not specific, then you will not be able to track or measure your progress towards your goals. Doing more of X or improving Y will not help. You need to state what you will do and quantify it. If you don’t, then you will be left with a vague target where you can easily let yourself off the hook.
Assuming you have quantified your goals, you need to ensure the ability to measure your efforts and confirm that you have achieved your goal. If you can’t measure it, then you cannot manage the factors that may influence the outcome. Make sure you have access to the data and the necessary tools to determine your success.
Achievable and Reasonable
Saying you are going to sprout wings and learn to fly in 2016 are not likely going to happen but securing a new job or growing your business by ten percent are more likely. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. If the circumstances for 2016 are the same as 2015, and you expect to grow your business by 50% when you have never been able to reach that kind of growth rate in the past, then you are setting yourself up for failure. If you have had an annual growth rate in the past of six or eight percent, then ten percent does not seem to be out of reach.
While that may seem like taking the easy road, if you reach your goal early or are tracking to surpass your goal then adjust as needed. I am just saying that you do not have to set a ridiculously high goal for yourself only not to achieve it. Set a goal and keep moving the goal line instead if you are on the path to successfully reaching your goal.
If there are too many factors outside of your control, then your ability to reach your goals will be seriously impeded. You need to be clear about what you control, what you can influence, and where support for you exists. If you are flailing in the wind hoping that your uncoordinated efforts will somehow get you to your desired destination then you are going to be disappointed and, furthermore, end up where you do not want to be – failure town.
Saying I want to be thinner some day is something nice to say but very unlikely to occur. If you say that I want to lose ten pounds in the next thirty days, then you are talking. Vagueness gets you know where but specifying a date, not long in the future on your calendar provides you with needed focus.
Stating a goal with an associated timeframe gives you something to work with and a point on the horizon to move towards. It also gives you something to work backwards from so that you can break the path down into smaller steps or milestones. Whether it is a personal goal or a goal for your firm, breaking things down into smaller steps makes the necessary change(s) more attainable. A far off vision is just that – far off. Bringing the vision closer makes the it easier for individuals and firms.
Do Over vs. Net New
It is okay to have new goals if you want. I am not here to judge. I am just suggesting that you consider an approach that will have a greater likelihood of success. Make the new goals S.M.A.R.T. ones, do over your goals from last year but with more reasonable expectations, or a combination of both.
No matter what you choose to do, you can be bold. Just don’t be ridiculous. Every year we have the opportunity to reflect and recalibrate. Pick what worked from 2015 and double down on it while ignoring what didn’t work. This time, next year you can do the same again but throughout the year give yourself the latitude to adjust, pull back, or extend your goals.
You are setting goals and objectives knowing what you know now, but things can and will change over the course of the year. You are free to respond accordingly. Your success will be counting on it.