Success is the most highly valued commodity in the business world, though it can mean different things to different people depending on circumstance. Regardless of how you define it, where does success come from without goals? Working hard toward an unclear target is like fishing in a puddle – trying to make a catch where there’s nothing to be caught. A business without well-articulated goals won’t be a business for long.
It might be easier to stay close to home and avoid the trek to a more promising fishing hole altogether. But we have to invest in order to profit. And we must declare the objective of our investment and provide milestones that guide our path toward a vision of what success will look like when we arrive.
Setting goals is hard, though, whether it be due to lack of experience or because we don’t want to over- or underestimate our team’s ability to achieve them. We have to be ambitious and persistent in our pursuit of success, preparing for obstacles and working through them as they arise.
Bringing the team together to brainstorm ideas and goals can sometimes deteriorate into a lot of quiet thumb-twiddling. To get beyond that, we need to commit to the work and avoid getting stuck in the mud. We need to make the extra effort to get to where the fish are.
So many parts of the goal-setting process are complicated and loose. They are difficult to weave together, but techniques exist that help us sharpen our focus and lay out a clear and navigable map of goals for ourselves and our teams. According to Christina Wodtke, a keynote speaker at ITX’s Product Momentum: Beyond the Features conference (June 19–21), the most effective of these methods is the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) methodology.
OKRs aren’t just about hitting targets, but about learning what you are really capable of. – Christina Wodtke
In her blog post The Art of the OKR, Christina says: “OKRs aren’t just about hitting targets, but about learning what you are really capable of.” We know that there’s more to goal setting than just reaching a certain number and checking off a box, but how do we apply that knowledge to our actions? We need to push ourselves by setting goals that are difficult but not impossible; we need to learn where our limits lie and figure out how we can overcome them in order to be successful.
Christina’s books, essays, and blog posts present techniques like OKRs in great detail with helpful examples and diagrams. Her insights on the implementation of OKRs are assembled in her most recent book, Radical Focus, where she uses real-life examples to clearly articulate the value of OKRs for all kinds of businesses.
“To be successful, you have to focus on what matters,” Christina says in her blog post The Only Silver Bullet. “You have to say ‘no’ a lot […] and hold people accountable for their promises. You have to argue about whether or not your tactics are working, and admit when they aren’t.” Objectives need to be honest before they can be successful.
The whole team needs to be on the same page, too, and that can only happen when there’s a trusted, reliable leader at the helm. One of the things we can learn from Christina is how to rely on that leader while remaining independent so that we can properly align with each other and focus our efforts together.
Setting measurable, realistic goals takes practice, especially when those goals are designed to include a whole group of people. That practice, combined with the use of OKRs, has the potential to create a reliable, embedded system of goal setting for your team. Transitioning from insight to execution, however, is the hard part. And that’s exactly what Christina trains companies to do. She has enjoyed many great successes throughout her career (for example, co-founding the Information Architecture Institute), which is how we can be sure that her time at the Beyond the Features conference will be informative and inspirational.
Learning from such an accomplished expert will give us a chance to transform the way we look at goal setting, and, with experience, we will adjust to that new perspective. Once we master all of the steps that will get us to our destination, we’ll have no problem taking the journey and casting our nets into the ocean.