Analytical 1: Goals

10 June, 2016


Analytical opens with a look at goals - personal goals, life goals and how to look at them.

Transcript available
[MUSIC PLAYING] Everything can be improved, iterated, and refined. And if you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analyzed it enough. Calculated choices carefully considered. Absolutely analytical. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network. To support our shows, including this one, head over to our Patreon page. And for other great shows, visit today. Today, I'd like to talk about goals. Goals in the broadest sense of the word goals, personal goals, work goals, life goals, whatever you want to call them, goals. I think it's absolutely critical that we set goals for ourselves. And, you know, if you're in management, obviously you've got people that you need to set their goals because if people don't know where they should be going, how will they know when they get there? Sounds simple. Sounds pretty simple, actually. But you'd be amazed how many people don't take goal setting seriously. Sometimes they just think it's a joke or that it'll never happen or that it doesn't matter and that the minutiae of day to day, it's just okay to tick along and to not have goals or if you do have goals, to have goals and to not actually do anything active about them. It's the easiest thing in the world to sit there and say, well, someone asked me to help them with something. And you go and help them with something. You know, it could be, you know, your spouse, it could be your child, you know, your parents, your sibling, whatever, a friend. All the while, your goal of cleaning the house or taking care of the yard or whatever else never happens. In a work environment, you have to get some kind of report done or a presentation or an analysis or a bit of code that needs to be done, tested, written. And because you get distracted and you don't actually focus on your goals, you don't deliver. And then what? Ultimately, though, there's two things I just want to touch on about goals, goal settings and so on. And I guess the first thing is goalposts and setting expectations. And the thing with goalposts is I like the analogy. I think it's great because in pretty much, let's see, soccer, football, you have a goal and the goal is, the aim I should say, is to get the ball in the goal. Either you kick it, punch it, punch it, throw it, whatever, it goes through the goals, right? That's how you know you get a point or you get several points or whatever else. It's a great analogy. Moving goalposts is a little bit more problematic. Generally speaking, goals are fixed in the ground or goals are rather heavy and take a fair bit to move. So, moving goalposts is not something that you should, you generally do. And if you're playing a game, it's unconscionable that you would move the goalposts during the game. There's an unwritten rule, an unwritten contract that says "I've blown the whistle, we start the game, the goalposts stay where they are". You can't change the playing field while you're in the middle of the game. You can't move things around. That's just not, well, cricket. Although cricket doesn't have goals, I suppose. Anyway, so the thing is about goalposts and moving them, I love the expression, but the interesting part is that there's a couple of aspects as to what on earth it's really getting at. So, someone says to you, the goal is to do X and then they, as you get closer to X, they say, oh, well, you know, actually you need to do X plus one or something completely different, go do why? Well, they've just moved the goalposts. You sit down, you have a conversation, you set goals, okay? You start working towards said goals. And then when you don't get to those goals because they've decided to move those goals, then suddenly that's not particularly fair. And whilst fairness isn't really, it's like fair or unfair, right or wrong, there is actually a bit of a dark aspect to that because some people I've worked with and worked for move goalposts intentionally. they intend to frustrate you and it's sad to say but it's true I've worked with people like that and it's a form of passive aggressive bullying which is you know not on but there are still people out there like that they're intentionally trying to derail you to make you less efficient to make you less successful and that's it that's something to be aware of and in situations like that I guess you know jump ahead jump over the manager if you have to if that's who's doing it to you. But irrespective, I suppose, I guess my thought on that is if you are going to set goals as an individual, then don't move them. Because we can't control others, but we can control ourselves. And that's the point, is that if you are setting goals for someone, anybody, then you should stick with those goals and don't move the goal posts. I mean, it couldn't, of course, I mentioned like it's a form of passive aggressive bullying. Yes, but there's also just incompetence. There's also grasping at straws, no clear direction, no idea. Like I keep moving the goalposts because I don't know where the goalposts should be. Like here's what I thought the goals were last week, but now I've changed my mind. And I suppose I've dealt with that probably more frequently. That's more the point. Working for someone who keeps moving the goalposts is infuriating. It's absolutely infuriating because you never know where you stand. You never know where you're going. Everything changes so regularly. You just don't know. Yeah, you start to wonder what your name is. Is it, you know, what am I doing today? What's my job title today? I forgot. Oh, I know what it was last week. And that sort of fluidity, I've heard people say, oh, it's being agile. There's a fine line between agile and chaos. But in any case, getting back to goals and moving goalposts, I suppose it's because we can't control others and we can control ourselves, at least we hope we can. You certainly should be able to get on that. Thing is, set clear goals and stick to them and only change them as a last resort. Like there is absolutely no way we will ever get to the goal that we set. The situation has completely changed and it's not possible. In cases where there's been minor changes and you've got to do a course correction, consider trimming the goal, you know, instead of it being, well, instead of having to deliver the entire document by the end of the month, just deliver the first half. You know, that's a concession, sure, but at least you're moving the goalposts closer than further away. And there's nothing more frustrating than moving them further away from somebody intentionally. So the other thing is with goals and setting directions and so on and consistency, it's the same kind of thing actually with kids, because when you say to your kids, you know, it's like goals with kids are kind of like a promise, you know, like a promise that if you do your clean your bedroom, that, you know, you will get a you'll get a cookie or something like that. In an incentivisation scheme, if you like, something like that. Anyway. But if you then renege on that and they clean their room and you don't give them their reward for doing that, then you just move the goalposts. You say, well, actually, no, in addition, you also have to do this other thing. I didn't mention that at the beginning. It's like, well, there was an implied contract. If I did this, I would get that. So, the goal and the reward for achieving that goal, you have to be consistent, you have to stick with it. Because if you don't, all you get is a very, very frustrated and angry child. And I think with good reason. It's interesting as a topic also because, well, there's a guy called George Moran. And in 1981, the November edition of Management Review, he wrote an article about setting goals and objectives. And his, the funny thing is the idea he proposed was called SMART, which is an acronym. And some people may have heard of SMART. It's become quite popular in education in Australia recently. But I'd heard about it a long, long time ago when I was over in North America, actually. It was. OK, so what is it? What is it? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time Related. Although his original document, sorry, his original article said time related. I heard it as time sensitive. What does that mean? So the quote from the magazine, I'll read it I'll read it word for word so that it's accurate. It goes like this. "Ideally speaking, each corporate department and section objective should be specific, and that means to target a specific area for improvement. Measurable, that is to say, to quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress. Assignable, specify who will do it. Realistic, state what results can realistically be achieved given available resources. And time-related, specify when the results can be achieved. I'd rather tackle those in my own words, if that's OK. So, specific. If you're going to set a goal, it needs to be a specific goal. So, it can't just be fix machine. It's like, well, OK, what aspect of the machine? And it's like, well, there's about 20 things wrong with it, okay. So, which of those 20 things do you want me to fix? All 20 or just one or two or ten or what? What's the minimum pass/fail criteria? You know, how do I know I've "fixed the machine"? You know, it's kind of a bit of a broad thing to say. So, you've got to be as specific as you can be. There'll be some things you can't be too specific about. It's like, you know, writing a document, you know, cleaning a room. So, how will you know when the room is clean? Well, if you look around and all the kids done and shoved all the dirty clothes under the bed and yeah, hey, look, at first blush it looks clean, you know, just don't look under the bed. Yeah, well, not falling for that one. Nope. So, you got to say, well, all the dirty clothes have to be gone, the floor has to be clean, the desk has to be clean, I have to go run my finger around the windowsill and find no dust. OK, that's a qualitative criteria that I can specifically specify. Of course, that quantitative sort of comment feeds into the second component, which is measurable. So you need to be able to measure that this has actually happened. So you run your finger around the room, you see there's no dust, okay, I can measure that. Can I can I measure whether there's clothes on the floor? Yes, I can. That's an absolute either are or there aren't. No problem. Unless of course, they're, you know, honey, I shrunk the kids, you know, micro nano sized, you you know, socks or something, which you can't see, but nevermind that. Anyhow, in terms of a report, you could say, well, is it measurable? Well, you're going to talk about the following subjects in the report. Have you talked about them? Yes, you've achieved it. I have to fix this machine specifically fix the broken camera. Okay. No problem. Does the camera work? That's measurable. Yes or no. So measurable goals, very important. It has to be quantitative measurement as much as possible. It has to be assignable. So, I can't just say to the team, "Okay, team, you go do this." Because inevitably, you'll have some people on the team that do more than others, and some people will feel left out or rather, well, maybe they'll feel left out, maybe they'll feel happy if other people do their job for them. But you'll get inequality and imbalance. Obviously, if you've got, you know, in a situation at home with kids, you say, "Well, you know, all of you need to clean the house," let's say, because they made a big mess, they had a big confetti fight and there's just a mess everywhere. What are you gonna do? Well, you all made a mess, you all have to clean it. Inevitably what happens, you'll get one or two that really get into it and really clean it and the other two, maybe three, four, whatever, how many kids you got, I don't know, depends. But you know, you'll have at least one that's slacking off and not doing anything or doing very little, like pushing a piece of confetti around the floor and then looking at it stubbornly. Yeah, I cleaned that. Mm-hmm, yes, of course you did. Anyhow, so it has to be assignable, specific components assignable to specific people if possible. Needs to be realistic. Okay, setting a goal has to be realistic. Yeah, invent time travel. Kind of a bit of a stretch, I think. Needs to be a bit realistic. Much as we all want a TARDIS, probably a bit unrealistic. Or, you know, someone invent that flux capacitor or whatever. I mean, I'm fine with a DeLorean. I'll take a DMC 12 anytime, but that's fine. Even all the mods that needed because it was somewhat unreliable, nevermind that. Time-related, finally, it has to be specific about when it needs to be completed by. You have to set yourself a goal. One of the traps that a lot of people fall into setting time-related goals or lack thereof is, well, in a homework environment. So I work for myself, I write software, what deadline do I set? Well, I set whatever deadline I feel like, because I can. I don't have restrictions. I can I could take a month. I could take three months. It made no difference in the end. But you'll find that if you don't set a time related goal, even if it's an artificial goal and that you just won't try to meet it and it'll just languish and and never go anywhere and nothing will ever get done. So I love the idea of SMART. And the fact is that it's been around for, what's that, 35 years. as an idea. It's getting traction more recently in education, which is cool, I think. And I think it's a really good way of focusing when you're thinking about goals, not just for yourself, but if you're setting them for other people. And keep in mind that when other people set goals and impose them upon you, the criteria should still apply. You can assess those goals and say, well, I don't accept your goal because it's not specific. It's not measurable. It's not realistic. You're not really assigning it to me. And in terms of time related, there's no actual specific end date. So shrug, what do you want me to do? And I think that that's very useful to be able to do. And it comes back to the other thing about goals. You have to set them. I do not understand how people can go through their lives without having goals. I think everyone does. I think without exception, they have goals. I mean, beyond the basics, like I need to eat to survive and drink and all that sort of stuff, and I need clothes and so on. Beyond the basics, I think people do have a very loose set of goals. How formalized they are, some people write them down, some people put them in spreadsheets, some people put them in yellow stickies and stick them on the wall, and then they fall off the wall, and then forget what their goals are. However you do it, you have some kind of goal or series of them. But are they good goals? Are they useful goals? Are they ones that are actually going to move you forward and achieve something? Or are they just a waste of time and a distraction? Well, I guess I have to leave some of that up to you. But in any case, I think that if we don't set goals, ultimately we'll have no direction. And in the end, there'll be no sense of completion because we all won't know where we're going, what we're doing or why we're doing it. If you're enjoying Analytical and you want to support the show, you can. Like one of our backers, Chris Stone, he and many others are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at, or one word. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, it's all very much appreciated. Analytical is one of several podcasts on the Engineered Network. There's also Pragmatic, Nutrium and Causality. If you've enjoyed Analytical, you might enjoy them as well. In closing, I'd just like to say that you should accept nothing. Question everything. It's always a good time to analyze something. I'm John Chidjie. Thanks so much for listening. [Music] Thanks so much for listening. [Music] [BLANK_AUDIO]
Duration 16 minutes and 34 seconds Direct Download

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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.