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Business, Goals Edition If Not Goals, What Really Matters?


By: Stephen Harris •  4 years ago •  

Several years ago, I sat down with Ken Lowe over a beer to ask what goals he’d set to create one of Australia’s most successful ongoing IT companies, ASI Solutions. His answer surprised me.

“Well, we started in the spare room at home to see how things would go and we just kept going.”

Of course, there’s more to it than ‘just keep going’. ASI credits its amazing success to the culture of the whole team (170 people exceeding $50M by 2014), which is also led by fellow director and driving force, Maree Lowe.

A similar theme appears in the story of international sensation, eBay. When he started what was then called AuctionWeb, did Pierre Omidyar have a goal to be a multi-million dollar, disruptive, ecommerce juggernaut? NO! The site started as a hobby: a demonstration site for the auction software that he had developed. Pierre had no goal to become one of the richest men in the world.

When you review Australia’s most successful companies, it is not so much the goals they have set, but their ability to execute winning strategies that leads the way. Successful Australian organisations simply say what they are going to do and do it.

I would like to evoke the good old “iceberg model” where what lies beneath the water is far larger and more important than what appears at the tip of the iceberg – in this case the ‘goals’ being the tip.

The question I am raising for business coaches is: “Where do we focus to give the most value to businesses?”

Googling “how to set and achieve goals” gives you the unsurprising number of around 411 million results in less than 0.37 seconds. Clearly goal-setting is a much written-about and important topic. There are a variety of methods to choose from, for example SMART; SMARTFORME; GROW; Locke and Latham’s Principles; OKRs; BSQ; BHAG; Growth Hacker; By Guess or By Golly; Because I Said So, and others.

With no intention of demeaning goal-setting, there is something else going on – perhaps a subtle language difference which hints that Australian businesses don’t set goals. They do, though probably more modestly than their American counterparts. Instead, Australian businesses seem to simply set a target and then… do it.

The trick, of course, is in the doing, using a goal that can be met or exceeded.

Often in business development, to support goal-setting, teams and I have agreed to targets upwards of $5M per year. For many years, Harvey Norman simply stated at the beginning of the year how many stores it would open in the coming year. Macquarie stated its intentions to receive a full bank licence when the industry was deregulated in 1985. If you really want to go big in support of success from goal-setting, just pay attention to one of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffett. He reportedly lives in a world of focused goals. So there is plenty of support for the school of goals.

To make a difference and reach your goals – to ‘do it’ or ‘keep going’ – you need well thought out, established goal- setting methods, rigorously executed. The focus is on the alignment of systems, procedures, people, leadership and your value streams: all guided and propelled forward by your organisational culture.

One approach that works extraordinarily well is to overlay the principles of project management on the goal delivery process.

Project management does not have to be complex, though if you have never embraced the concept to ensure goal achievement, a short course and the choice of simple tools will make a measurable difference to you and your business clients.

Here is how you apply the concept of project management for clients to reach their goals:

Be clear on what you need to achieve – When a goal has been set, flesh it out, get agreement on timeframes and what the outcomes actually look like. Know what resources may be needed (including budgets) and understand why this goal is important – including what happens and who is affected if the goal is reached or not reached. Record what milestones you will pass along the way, and who is involved.

Gather and understand the players – People make a business and people create success in any project or goal attainment. Understand who is involved, what is in it for them, what they need, how communication will work, who can help and who can hinder this project. Take time to understand and for the players to understand as well. Agree on the tools to be used and ensure everyone is equipped.

Decide on what is to be delivered – Communicate this to everyone involved and affected by the project, ensure everyone understands and agrees on the expected result, gain feedback and ensure clarity.

Map out the Plan – List the actions, allocate activities, schedules and milestones. Verify understanding, and always confirm whilst gaining support and consensus.

GO! – Manage the work, monitor the work, regularly review, report progression, stay on track, seek help as soon as needed, deal with changes, and communicate, communicate, communicate!

Course Corrections and Reviews – At each milestone, look for improvements by reviewing what has worked so far, what didn’t work, what we wish to do next, and what we wish to alter or stop. Is the project and goal still relevant? Persevere and keep going.

At Goal achievement or completion – Review the lessons learned, and record this for future use and coaching. Celebrate!

As a business coach, by sticking to methodologies that work, you will engender trust in your clients as they become very aware of the progression of things.

There are many tools to use to record and help clients to stay on track. Some are free, some are inexpensive and some quite extraordinary. Typically at goal achievement level, the project management approach can be kept fairly simple at the coaching and client interface. This is a time where good methodology and simple tools will promote all the things needed, such as focus, sharing of information, accountability, transparency, progression measurement, keeping on track and getting to the milestones.

Furthermore, by delivering methodologies, tools and coaching, your clients will gain important skills to achieve all future goals through sustainability and learning._________________________________________________________________

Stephen Harris is an Award-winning Coach from the National College of Business, founder of OODA, Value Streams and DriveA1. He has a diverse background as a business coach and business developer focusing on humanisation, systemisation and getting whole organisations to better outcomes. Someone once called him “Make-it- Happen-Harris” and this nickname has stuck. Reportedly, he makes stuff happen.

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