Defining goals

Welcome to our first theme post. With these posts we want to share our knowledge that we have collected since the foundation of WeValCo and also during our work prior to that. On the one hand to create a broader understanding of the topic’s collaboration, project management, process management and self-organization and on the other hand (if you want) to discuss it with you (e.g. on Twitter or LinkedIn).

In this blog post I want to tell you something about goals. Goals are all around us. But why is it important to have goals and how can a proper understanding of goals help you get them accomplished? More on that in this article.

Why are goals important?

Generally, goals allow us to focus our resources on a chosen topic and on a result to be achieved. By doing so, if we follow that goal, we will use fewer resources in other areas. By resources I mean, for example, time, attention, money, etc., generally things that are necessary to achieve a goal. So, it’s about using resources efficiently and effectively.

Isn’t efficient and effective the same thing?

No, efficiency means that we achieve our goal with the least possible use of resources and effective means that the goal is achieved as we thought it would be. In other words, efficiency means to do the necessary steps correctly (e.g. without mistakes) and effectiveness means to do the steps that are necessary.

How do you find the necessary steps?

First, you need to have a clear idea of what your goal is and what it is not. It is best to write down all your ideas and make a list of things that are not included. Be specific and concrete e.g. “I want to run a marathon, but triathlon doesn’t interest me”. Choose only ideas that you can influence, that you think are realistic, and that you can determine whether you have achieved them or not. At the end, set yourself a time frame by which you want to have reached your goal. Wanting to run the marathon tomorrow when you just started training today is not very realistic. To make sure you do not forget anything, the acronym “SMART” can help you. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Actively Influenceable, Realistic and Timed. Do you have everything together? Then try to formulate your goal in one sentence that contains all components.

All your future steps towards your goal can now be reflected in this sentence to find out whether they are goal-oriented, i.e. whether they bring you closer to your goal or not.

What we noticed in our planning at WeValCo is that we liked to write down big goals. Sure, we need a vision of where we want to go, but it’s also very important to define smaller intermediate goals. These are easier to reach and thus it is easier to know if you are still within your time and resource plan and especially you will stay motivated.

In the following I would like to give you an example of the theory.

Let’s assume someone wants to implement an IT project. Let’s call her Mia. She thinks that video chats are very good to improve communication within project teams, unfortunately all variants cost money and she wants to create a free variant that everyone can host themselves.

Mia works in the IT department of a large company and has about 10 hours a week to work on the “free video chat” project. She has many ideas about what she would like to implement and writes down all these ideas. The list becomes very long, and she thinks about which of the ideas will bring a real benefit in the first step. She tries to specify her goal. “I want a video chat in which I can communicate with people I know. Therefore, it is helpful, but not necessary, that I have a friends list. In the first step, it is enough to distribute chat invitations via mail.  The whole thing should simply run in the web browser. As web browser I focus on Chrome. I do not want to support an installation version. On the smartphone it does not need its own interface ….”. Mia gets even more specific and writes down all the things she wants to implement and which ones not. She also marks the things that are necessary and bring a direct benefit and those that are nice to have and she wants to implement later.

Now Mia is thinking about how to measure whether she is done or not, because software is never done, is it? She decides to define a series of software tests that must be successfully passed in order to complete.

Since she has a lot of experience in software development, she can actively influence the goal. Only the area of marketing is unfamiliar to her and she needs support there. She notes that she will not take up marketing as her own goal but will actively ask for support from her friends.

Next, she considers when she would like to be done. Next winter would be great, so that gives her about a year now. She reviews her list of things she wants to implement and considers what she can accomplish with 10 hours a week. The best way to do this is to roughly estimate how much work each step will take and add it up. A few topics that are not necessarily have to be crossed off the list, but in total she is satisfied. So, her goal seems realistic and she is looking forward to finally getting started.

Next, Mia wants to set up a work schedule and talk to a friend about marketing. More about that in the next article, creating a rough plan.