Work FAST, not SMART
April 27, 2021
There are awesome examples of really good S.M.A.R.T goals. Things like:
- Grow market share at least 20% by the end of the financial year
- Win 4 new $10,000 MRR business contracts before the end of Q3
- Increase website traffic 200% in the next two months
- Pay-off $100,000 of business debt within 24 months
However, in the vast majority of cases that we have seen, goals are rarely set like this.
Instead, they get diluted. To things like:
- Grow market share
- Get more customers
- Improve the website
- Reduce debt
There’s a big difference between the intent of the former, and the intent of the latter.
Even worse than diluting ambitious goals, is setting shitty ones. Therein is one problem.
How many times have you seen a goal set by management resembling something like:
- Sales team to hit 100% of their targets to earn their bonus
What’s the result here?
Expecting salespeople to hit 100% of their targets to earn their bonus creates a strong motivation for them to set conservative targets they are sure to achieve. It makes the process of goal setting a bit pointless really.
The fundamental problem with goal setting in New Zealand, is that they are generally created and kept in silos.
Ask any employee in any reasonably sized organisation what the organisational goals for that year are. You’ll invariably get a set of different responses.
Ask them what their team goals are? You’ll get more consistent answers.
Ask them what another team’s goals are? They (probably) won’t have a clue.
Therein lies another problem.
Agile or not, teams are continuing to work in silos. Agile or not, employees don’t really know what’s going on.
Let’s play this out a little bit in a hypothetical scenario.
You need another team’s help to complete something that will help you achieve your goal.
You don’t know their goals. You ask around. You waste your time. Eventually, you find out that their goals aren’t aligned with yours. What do you expect to happen?
Spoiler: If the goals aren’t aligned, then it’s not going to be a priority for them, is it?
What if I was to tell you that there’s a better way?
A way to get everyone on the same page. A way to ensure people get what they need out of goal-setting.
Instead of making your goals S.M.A.R.T, make your goals F.A.S.T.
F.A.S.T goals are:
- frequently discussed;
- ambitious by nature;
- measured by specific metrics and milestones; and
- transparent for everyone in the business to see and understand
F.A.S.T. goals are designed to include a number of behaviours whose purpose is to drive their achievement of the goal.
Frequently discussed. When goals are frequently discussed, they can better inform decision-making and keep employees focused on key priorities. Talking about goals openly and often helps employees from falling behind on them. If a goal is set in January and then is mostly out of mind for the rest of the year, momentum 100% will get lost. But, by checking in on and discussing goals regularly, momentum is maintained. The more top of mind your goals are, the easier it is to course-correct achieving them. Goal setting & course-correcting is then a recurring process.
Ambitious. Goals are supposed to be stretches, not easy. What’s the point of setting a goal if it doesn’t push you to be better? Achieving the bare minimum isn’t pursuing a goal, it’s simply doing your job. A goal that is too broad gives you just enough wiggle room to not live up to your full potential. The right goal is ambitious and challenging. You should always be pushing yourself to be better than you were yesterday. If you can’t set an ambitious goal, what’s the point?
Measured. If you can’t measure progress, how will you know when to celebrate and when to adjust? More realistically, the goals you set in January will likely change as you learn more about your business and your customers. This is why goals must be measured by specific metrics and milestones. When you set goals, you should know exactly what you will do to achieve them and how you will measure your progress. Goals must have a deadline. If you don’t set a deadline, a goal becomes a perpetually moving target. The more time you give yourself to achieve a goal, the more likely you will become complacent.
Parkinson’s law innit.
‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’
Transparent. In order to achieve high performance, you must communicate your goals and progress regularly. It generates buy-in and support. If there is no support for your goals, they will not be achieved. You can’t achieve your goals if no-one is with you, right?
Let’s revisit our hypothetical scenario.
What do you expect will happen?
You can be confident that your request will be given a positive response.
Because you already know that your goals are aligned. Transparent ✅
Because you already know they are progressing against their goals because the goals. Measured ✅ Frequently discussed ✅
Both teams are pushing themselves hard to be better than they were yesterday. Ambitious ✅
And, you won’t have wasted a bunch of hours figuring stuff out. Double win.
F.A.S.T. Goals have a sense of immediacy that S.M.A.R.T. goals do not.
It’s a subtle change in setting goals, but it’s a game-changing subtlety.
F.A.S.T >> S.M.A.R.T everyday of the week. Make your goals FAST, not SMART!
We’d love to hear from you!
Eoghan & James.