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Just Plain Good Old Goal Writing

Creating strategic and operational planYou can dress it up with terms like “strategic plan” or “operational plan” but at the end of the day, it’s just plain good old goal writing.  Really. I know it seems intimidating at times to put it on paper. If you decide to call it an action plan, that works too. For larger small businesses, there may be all kinds of meetings of teams or pertinent staff members but I’m telling you…when it comes time to figure out how to make the Big Ideas sing, you have to know how to write a goal.

We like predictability in most areas of our lives. According to Lars Andersen, a lack of predictability is a leading cause of stress in the workplace. When you’re the business owner or one of the executive team (no matter what your actual title says), you can create that predictability with clear goals that assign the task to specific people and embed accountability. This makes it clear and (dare I say it?) easy to follow through on what is desired.  You can even reduce the amount of procrastination that can accompany vague goals.

Goal setting has three components:  1) specifics, 2) measurements, and 3) deadlines.  It requires a step-wise way of thinking while you break a task down to its individual steps.  The first component, specifics, tells you what you are going to do.  This is why it is important to state the goal clearly.  You may even discover that you will have sub-goals to your main goal. (This is definitely true when you are setting up your 1 year, 3 year or 5 year plans). The second component, measurements, focuses how you will know you are successful.  Sometimes, measurements can let you know if you need to fine-tune the goal or even change the goal.  The last component, deadlines, gives you the necessary push to follow through with your chosen actions. 

See the difference here:

Vaguely worded goal: We will expand our reach to women-owned small businesses.

Do you know what to do here? I don’t and I hear goals like this all of the time. What does it mean to expand? Is it physical as in setting up a satellite office somewhere? Or is it really about marketing? Using social media, traditional media or what? Bad, bad, bad.

Clearly worded goal: We will contact 3 networking groups that focus on women-owned small business to inquire about speaking opportunities by Friday.

It becomes clear that you intend to use speaking as a way to connect with this particular market. This clarity is simple and easy to focus on.

The specific action is to contact the networking groups that focus on women small business owners. The measurement is that we will contact 3 of these groups. The deadline is Friday. Is it easy to imagine someone taking on this goal and completing it by the deadline? And he/she doesn’t complete it, they will be able to tell you what got in the way.

Some people believe you have to write your goals as SMART goals. Other prefer a more free-form style. There isn’t really one way to write the goals as long as you have the basic components.  Excessive words will make it hard to follow through as there will be too much to remember.  Keep your goal simple and succinct.  For measurements, use timers, logs, charts and a calendar.  Make your deadlines clear and realistic. This goes for any small business, no matter the size. Sometimes goals are long-term and will be accomplished over the course of a year or even several years. All of the goals and sub-goals have the same ingredients. Each goal is a note that enables your Big Idea, your vision, to sing.

What goals are you setting that will make your Big Ideas for your small business sing?


Setting Goals, Designing Action-#kaizenblog recap

We did something a little different for the #kaizenblog chat. To help each other meet goals more effectively, we thought we’d try an experiment. Could we have a simultaneous teleconference and Twitter chat? As usual, the #kaizenblog community rose to the occasion by helping behind the scenes and, of course, adding their wisdom and experience.

Our experiment entailed a teleconference on Skype and #kaizenblog/#kQ4 on Twit#kaizenblogter. Two people were instrumental to the behind the scenes organization of this event and I want to thank them for theiir invaluable contributions. Mary Ann Halford (@MaryAnnHalford) set up the Kaizen Act site and helped facilitate the conversation on Twitter. Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) helped out by facilitating the conversation on Twitter. These two women were fabulous and professional! A million thank yous!

For additional tweets, highlights from conversation with Caroline Di Diego and the side threads of the conversation, please look at both transcripts.

#kaizenblog transcript: Transcript for #kaizenblog – SettingGoalsDesigningAction

#kQ4 transcript (you might need to use password “ellidocs”): kQ4GoalSettingDesigningAction

On Skype we had Caroline Di Diego as our guest to provide a live case study. Ms. Di Diego recently launched a company and agreed to talk about how she set goals and her milestones.

On Twitter, we followed a similar them on both#kaizenblog and #kQ4 for just this event, there were overlapping conversations so this recap will try to capture the highlights from both hashtags. Plus, Caroline and myself have a gift for all members of the #kaizenblog community. You can find the details at the end of this recap.

Setting Goals and Designing Action

When setting goals, Caroline and I talked about how far out you consider setting goals. Caroline explained that when she thought about how to launch emidaASIA, she chose a 3 year plan with 4 phases. This makes a lot of sense as going further out in time (beyond 5 years) often results in entrepreneurs getting lost in their imagination and the best actions seem nebulous at best. With a 1 and 3 year plan, it focuses one’s attention on what has to be accomplished right now.

To go a little deeper with this and the possible obstacles, we asked what prevents good goal setting?

  • Amber Cleveland “A1: Fear can prevent good goal setting. Fear of overreaching, failure, even fear of success”
  • Trees Atlanta “Q1: Not know WHAT you want”
  • Chris Paulsen “some don’t set good goals because they don’t understand the elemens of SMART goals”
  • Cathy Larkin “A1 taking the time to focus on goals is what often gets in the way for clients”

Chris Paulsen’s tweet about SMART goals created an important side thread. Writing goals isn’t as clear as it sounds. Many times we say, “I”m going to do X” but it lacks the crucial elements that will make this goal do-able. Chris did a succinct job of explaining that SMART goals are ones that are “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Based”. When you’re thinking about the goals for your career and/or business, drill down to what you are really trying to do. By the end of the exercise of writing down the goal, you should be able to clearly see yourself taking the action and wanting to take the action.

Since Caroline and myself are keen advocates of measurement and it’s a key piece to effective goal setting, it made sense to stop and notice How do you know you met your goals?

  • Cathy Larkin “Q2: good goal setting includes setting up benchmarks along the way, IDing points along way up front”
  • Judy Yi “Assuming Q1 was specific, it is critical to have measurements for objective evaluation, then gut check”
  • Isaac Duke “Q2 – Since this is #kaizenblog…you know you’ve met because it is_incremental and _obvious”
  • Chris Paulsen “It’s important to review your goals weekly and/or monthly to see how you are progressing and to know if you hit them”

Caroline and I covered a lot of ground quickly during our conversation but when we opened the conversation up to everyone, we got to hear tried and true methods that all of us could take home with us. Caroline reminded us to welcome reassessments as part of the process. Anna Barcelos suggested this question, “Does this contribute to the overall goal?” These methods that support good goal execution needs one  more element for success. Accountability….some of us dread being asked how we’re doing because we see it as if we’re going to be graded or something unpleasant. On Twitter, accountability was so much more than a check in. How do you use accountability with your goals?

  • Dabney Porte “I celebrate my wins when I achieve them. I list them and share them with an accountability partner”
  • Amber Cleveland “A3: I share my goals with others so that I have people to check-in with and people checkin-in with me”
  • Isaac Duke “A3-let’s face it – it’s good to have business partners – we’re not very good at holding ourselves accountable”

There is so much good links and other information in the transcripts that I hope you’ll take a look at them. For the first time, this experiment showed some promising ways that #kaizenblog can be more than a weekly conversation. There are members of this community who are wise, experienced and generous with their knowledge. Let’s see how we can set goals and design actions together!

Gifts from Caroline and myself:

Caroline Di Diego has offered to have one on one conversations about launching a business, entrepreneurship or just connecting. She is well worth connecting with so send her a DM and schedule some chat time!

Elli (me) is inviting you to a complimentary coaching session with no obligations or strings. We talked a lot about measuring, accountability and the obstacles that keep us from meeting our goals. It can be tough to take action without someone on your side and encouraging you. Send me a DM and we’ll schedule your coaching session.

**The Kaizen Act site is an invitation-only site for anyone in the #kaizenblog community to post the goals they would like help, accountability or any other resources. If you would like to participate in this, please send Mary Ann your email address by DM on Twitter and she will send you an invitation.



Kaizen Act-Opportunity To Set Goals and Design Action

We’re going to do something different with the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, this week. I’m pretty excited about this!

This is a special one-off conversation that came out of  “Year In Review (So Far)” that will include a simultaneous Skype converation and Twitter chat. It came out of a suggestion by Mary Ann Halford who  suggested that the #kaizenblog community combine the talents, knowledge and experience to make the end of 2010 successful and lay the groundwork for 2011. The  focus will be on your goals and the actions you want to take to achieve these goals.

Chat Format

We’re going to be using the hashtag #kQ4 to designate this #kaizenblog chat as different from the others. For those who have felt stymied by the limits on characters, you get to say more than usual. Yay!

A wonderful addition is we get to include one of our own as a guest. Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI)  has been gracious enough

Caroline Di Diego

to allow her recent business launch to be a case study of how goals are designed, set and achieved. She, along with her partners, has launched emidaASIA and you can learn more here. 

We will be having a conversation with her about her methodology, process and any other tidbits of wisdom and advice she might have.

Another exciting aspect to this event is the Kaizen Act site (Many thanks to Mary Ann Halford for making the site active). This an in invitation-only site that will allow #kaizenblog community members to post their goals so we can learn about what you’re doing and help provide accountability over time. You do not have to post your goals to participate in the chat so please DM me or email me at coachinginfo (at) abilitysuccessgrowth (dot) comso we can send you an invitation. Please know that all goals posted are to be treated with respect and confidentiality. In order for this to work, everyone in the community has to feel secure that nothing will be made public nor used competitively.

Since this is right up my alley, I”m really excited to be of service! You get to pick my brain about goal setting, designing action and implementing your plan.

The Details

When: Friday, October 15, 2010

Time: 12:00pm-1:00pm ET/5:00pm-6:00pm BST/9:00am-10:00am PST

Where: Skype (if you choose the teleconference option) and  Twitter (hashtags-#kQ4 and #kaizenblog)

So, are you in?