Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

26 12 2011

So it’s that time of year again, when we re-evaluate our lives, decide what isn’t working, or needs to work better and solemnly vow (or sometimes drunkenly vow) to do better in the coming year.

Having just completed an MBA subject called Managing Change (which was fabulous by the way, really interesting and practical), I decided to apply the change models to my New Year’s Resolutions. I am thinking of resolutions in the sense of the types of changes we make to our daily lives rather than a bucket list type of resolution. These are the types of changes that take daily effort – daily decisions to do something differently. And for that reason they are harder to achieve. So my aim is to make the change as easy – and as automatic – as possible.

Now generally, change models more or less cover the same sort of key points. For ease, I will use Kotter’s Change model, because it is relatively succinct and is quite well known amongst change models.

So how can change theory help with setting – and more importantly, achieving, your New Year’s Resolution goals?

Step One. Create Urgency
In organisational change management this is often referred to as the “burning platform”. In your resolutions, you will need to have some compelling reason why this change is needed, and need NOW! If you can’t do that, then you need to either rethink your goal, or develop a burning platform. Often it takes a health scare to motivate people to lose weight / eat healthily / get fit / give up smoking. The only person you need to convince of the urgency is yourself – so keep going until you have your compelling reason.

Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition
As the Beatles song says “I get by with a little help from my friends”. Your coalition is there to help you achieve your goals, keep you on track and keep motivated. They may be friends – or they may be your personal trainer, a careers coach, a financial planner. It may be your bank, setting up automatic pay deductions into a savings account. Get your team together and set it up so it automatically drives you towards your goals. Make it as easy for yourself as you can.

Step Three: Create a Vision for Change
You need to have a clear vision about what you are heading towards. What is the change you want and where will you be when you have achieved it? This needs to be a vivid, clear compelling picture – in NLP terms, a bright, brightly coloured picture with action and sound and excitement. You need to be able to summon it in your mind and see it as a real picture.

Step Four: Communicate the Vision
In organisational change management, communicating the vision is vitally important – you need to share it effectively to get people on board. For your resolutions, the only person you need to convince is yourself. (If your goal is to change others you might need to rethink how realistic it is.) There are many tricks for keeping your goal in the front of your mind – creative visualisation techniques, meditation, posting key words or photographs of your goals in places where you will see them. Whatever works for you. Make sure it is always there to remind you when you make those daily decisions – what shall I eat today, will I get up early to exercise, shall I spend my savings on this dress…..

Step Five: Remove Obstacles
You know yourself, you know what has prevented you achieving the goal in the past. Your current self needs to safe-guard against your future self’s poor decision making / tiredness / lack of motivation. If you want to lose weight, make sure you are stocked up on food you do want to eat when you are hungry, and the junk food is not around. If you are going to exercise, make sure there is an easily available option that is not going to fall victim to too tired / too cold / too hot / too far / too rainy / etc. If you have a friend or relative who habitually undermines you, work out how you are going to deal with them or avoid them. If your obstacle is time, then make space for your goals – get up 15 minutes earlier, do it in lunchtime or stay up an extra 15 minutes. Plan for the obstacles and make sure they don’t get in the way. Make it as easy on yourself as possible.

Step Six: Create Short-term Wins
Nothing motivates more than success. Too often our goals are BIG goals. Losing 30kgs. Giving up smoking. Saving $20,000. These are great and worthwhile goals, and it is important to have inspiring worthwhile goals. But give yourself a plan – a ladder – to get there. These are the small goals which add up to the big goals. So maybe your first goals is to lose 2kgs in the first week. Or to cut out alcohol entirely. Or to save $200, or $20. Plot out how the small goals add up to the big goals – a chart or a diary can help to keep you on track. And celebrate the little wins, but don’t crucify yourself if you don’t quite make it or you backslide one week. Just refocus on your plan and keep going.

Step Seven: Build on the Change
Celebrate the little wins – but keep it in context. The little win is a win because it is one step in the bigger plan. Don’t let the little win be more important than the big goal, and don’t stop when you achieve the little goal. (And don’t do a George W Bush and declare victory too early.)

Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture
So you’ve made the changes and are well on the way to achieving the goal? Great. The next step to making it easy is to make it part of your normal life. Don’t think of it as a diet – it is now the normal way you eat (that’s why crash diets don’t work long-term). It’s not a fitness fad – you now exercise every day. You now meditate when you get up every morning. Integrate the changes into your normal routine and they will become less effort.

What tricks do you have to stay motivated and achieve your goals?

Want more on how to stay the course with your New Year’s Resolutions? This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
The Harvard Business School Study…or urban internet myths
Being accountable


19 12 2011

photo credit Richard Giles

Now that I have handed in my final assignment for my MBA, I can get down to some serious blogging. Yes, it is fair to say that studying was somewhat a distraction from blogging (as opposed to the other way around).

As per a previous post, I am a compulsive goal-setter. It helps that I do strategic planning for my work, but I have also set goals for myself since I was a teenager. In my undergraduate degree, my Leadership lecturer told us about a study done on Harvard Business School graduates showing that those who had written goals were considerably more successful and happier in their lives. I was hooked.

So, in honour of the upcoming New Year, when everyone else (aka normal people) does goal setting as well (albeit sometimes with the aid of some liquid intoxicants), I am planning to write about goal setting. And given that I am already converted, I thought I’d ask others – what do you want to know about personal goal setting? And then, I’ll do the research and find out what it is you want to know.

So this is a bit of an experiment. If I get no responses – then I guess I’ll sob into my pillow for a little while. Then I’ll write something anyway. And as I am asking for input via the comments section of the blog….I guess it will be a little public if no-one wants to play with me! Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

But I’m hoping that you might contribute – and I’m hoping this can all be of use to you.

And I will look up that Harvard Business School study and find out the details.

Please post ideas, suggestion and requests in the comments section……

Concept-Driven Strategy

11 09 2011

Having just finished an MBA subject called Strategy, I thought I’d share the approach to strategic planning used in this subject. If you would like more information on the topic, try googling the lecturer, Mike Metcalfe from University of South Australia – or enrol in his subject (also available online).

Concept-driven strategy is underpinned by the philosophy of Pragmatism, which links ideas and actions (ideas, or concepts, are neither inherently right or wrong and are only useful if they are linked to practice). It uses ideas, thoughts and concerns to generate higher-level directions for an organisation, which guide the lower level practical activities.

The Concept-Driven Strategy is particularly good for complex multi-stakeholder situations where there is little clarity about what the issues or concerns are. Using a multi-stakeholder analysis approach, it analyses the many concerns of many stakeholders to identify commonalities and develop nodes of concerns. This can be done using a free download at ucinet. Through using this matrix-approach, a number of nodes of concerns should begin to be visible – critical masses of concern.

The next stage is to analyse the nodes – as the issues have come from a number of stakeholders there may be inherent tensions, paradoxes and unintended consequences within each node of concern.

This analysis is used to develop a Statement of Strategic Intent – which is about what the organisation wants to BE, more than necessarily what it wants to DO. For instance the organisation might want to BE more agile (in order to take advantage of opportunities and changes in the industry sector).

This is then further developed into specific actions to make the Strategic Intent happen – what would that look like? What might be happening if we were like that? How might people be working, what would they do, who would they work with, who would we recruit and what organisational structure, committee structure and resources do we need to be that organisation? These specific activities are then further developed into a plan.

This is then mapped into a diagrammatic form – whatever sort of diagram suits your plan and your way of thinking – program logic, fishbone, timeline etc, and communicated to all stakeholders.

The important factor is the involvement of stakeholders to a greater and lesser degree all the way through the process. Staff and clients / consumers might be heavily involved all the way through – you want to bring them on the journey. Competitors might be less involved. Funding bodies and industry bodies might have some initial input and then some strategic involvement at other stages – or you might want to include them on the entire journey.

The involvement of a large number of stakeholder opinions is intended to overcome the subjectivity of individual opinions, and to overcome the issue of outlier opinions from powerful voices overcoming the needs and wants of other stakeholders.

Concept-Driven Strategy is not the only model for driving strategic change. Nor is it suitable for all situations. But it is another useful and interesting tool in the tool-belt.

there are two types of people…

20 08 2011

…as the joke goes.

Those who divide people into types, and those who do not.

However this post is not about that joke. The “division of people” which has come to mind right now, as I sit doing my MBA homework (I will have finished the MBA by December – the light at the end of the tunnel!) relates to deadlines.

I am very definitely a deadline person. It is the very basis on which I organise my life, prioritise what gets done when. If something doesn’t have a deadline, then I need to impose one.

To me this is a highly functional way to be. It isn’t that nothing gets done prior to the deadline. No matter how short (today!) or long the deadline, once it is locked away in my brain (and diary) as a certain date, I can cogitate on solutions and ways forward. By the time I sit down to write I often have a fully formed way forward ready to go. And providing I hit my deadline (which I do), I usually get excellent marks, or come up with a beautiful solution to my work problem. It is my way of harnessing inspiration.

There are however other people who don’t work like this. These are the schedulers. Given a task, they divide it into pieces of work, schedule it and start straight away.

Week one, identify resources needed and obtain.

Week two, devise reading schedule and begin.

Week three, map out plan for assignment or document.

Etc. My brain is crystallising just thinking about this.

These people are vital in certain sorts of jobs that require super-organisation and a steady planned pace of work. Jobs and tasks that are repetitive require this approach – think rostering, inventry management, facilities management, customer service, service delivery – anywhere where the same job needs to be done and maintained.

The trick of course is making sure you get the right people in the right jobs, and luckily, we seem to be self-sorting. While I tend to avoid jobs that require rostering, there are others who are attracted to this type of work.

Ain’t life grand?