Why should you have goals?

I recently had a few conversations in which goals became the central topic. In some cases, it was about the way that they are defined; in others, the way that they are imposed; or communicated; or even the absence of them entirely.

Why should you have goals?

Many of you may agree that having goals will help you to understand why you do things and what things to do or not do. The tricky part is defining them in a way that make sense for everyone.

Meaning is essential to human beings. We continually need to make sense of our outer and inner worlds, find meaning in our environment and in our relationships with other human beings, and act according to that meaning.

Fritjof Capra, The Systems View of Life

If goals were merely about growth and profit, I doubt whether they would mean anything significant for anyone apart from a few. Obviously, organizations exist while there is profit (unless it is a non-profit organization :)), but in my opinion this is not the meaning, this is the mechanism to reach it.


Does this mean we always need goals defined? It depends, in Drive To Improve we have been working without explicit objectives for around half a year and we haven’t run out of business. However, we have discussed deeply on more than one occasion why we want to work together, our vision and our values as a company. And eventually, we outlined our purpose and we are looking at setting explicit goals for next year.

Let’s assume that I have convinced you so far and you come up with a goal that makes sense, how is this helping you? It is a matter of moving in this direction, making sure that the things that you do bring you a step closer to your objective.

The Align Constraints view of Martie (Management 3.0 model) covers this topic and the approach is more on how to use and define these goals so that they don’t prevail on the ones of the individuals and teams. Instead, they all coexist forming a bigger meaning of the organization.

How can these goals be shared?

Leaders need to set the goals of the organization, but this doesn’t mean that people will consider them as their own. Maybe this is not even their intention, but at the very least, the leader wants them to be shared.

There are many different practices, models, etc. to share and defined objectives, for example OKRs, Management by objectives, Ikigai, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). And yet, the important thing is how they promote sharing them throughout the organization.

Let’s start by understanding what the purpose of the organization is (as Management 3.0 suggests).

Are you trying to improve the quality of life? or do the right thing? or help others?…

You can develop your purpose as much as you want, but need to be sure that it remains understandable (keep it short) and communicated constantly.

Then you have the starting point from whether you can ask teams and individuals to define their own objectives. These will likely be dependent on each other and that will generate alignment and conflict at the same time, but that’s ok, this clearly represents the world we live in.

The healthiest organizations are made up of departments whose agendas differ but whose goals are interdependent. If one agenda wins, we all lose.

Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc.

Giving people the option to define their own goals within the constraints of the bigger picture, will allow them to make compromises, resulting in better lives for everybody.

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