TBM 16/52: Goal Clarity (and Embracing Different Perspectives)

Huge favor to ask. Have you learned a new analytics product in the last year or so? If so, and you have 5 minutes to spare, I’d be very grateful if you could take this short survey. It would be a big help for my team.


Twelve people look at a proposed quarterly goal. They respond. Note the differences (you will inevitably encounter all of these in your career).

Person A looks at the goal and says "looks good to me!"

Person B looks at the goal and says “looks good to me!” But they are underestimating the difficulty of the effort.

Person C looks at the goal and says "that is not specific enough! There are so many ways I could approach that. Some I'm guessing you would not be happy with. Are you sure?"

Person D looks at the goal and says "OK this makes sense. Feels about right. But what is the bigger picture? If we achieve this, what will it enable? What is that goal?"

Person E looks at the goal and says "I'm a little lost. I'm not even sure where I would start. It doesn't feel actionable. It feels intimidating."

Person F looks at the goal and says "makes perfect sense as a longer term goal. But to keep us on track in the near-term we need something more leading."

Person G looks at the goal and says "that to is too specific! It implies a solution. I need something broader to work with."

Person H says "looks good" but doesn't look at the goal. They're sure their idea is great, and that when people see it in action, any discussion of goals will slip away.

Person I looks at the goal and says "looks good to me!" But they have an approach in mind that Person A, Person C, and Person E will hate. The goal didn't cover what was out of bounds. The team didn't surface their assumptions.

Person J looks at the goal and says "looks good! This is a good starter goal for the team. It isn't very impactful, and will change. But for right now this is fine. In the future they will use REAL goals!"

Person K looks at the goal and says "I don't have the energy to fight this battle. The goal makes no sense. And is incoherent with the work they are doing. But I'm done!"

Person L looks at the goal and says nothing. They joined a week ago and none of this makes any sense.

They are looking at the same goal. The lesson?

Goals do not magically create alignment. No two people see a goal the same way. It is impossible to bake everything into a single number or sentence.

To become more aligned the people involved need to:

  1. Work to build shared understanding. Have conversations. Discuss interpretations. Discuss how the goal will shape their decisions

  2. Have the safety to push back, rethink, discuss, tweak, and narrow

  3. Respect different experience levels

You are doing it right if you get a range of responses (even J and K).

And that's this week's post.