Setting Goals

Doing the Right Thing

The purpose behind any course of action has a direct and significant effect on the way it is undertaken. The reasons why you do something will affect the way you do it.

At first glance, the objective of a football team is pretty obvious, it’s to win the game. This isn’t always the case though, circumstances vary and the team will adapt the way they play:

  • Win at all costs when playing against a hated rival
  • Put on a show for the fans, a middle-league team that needs the ticket sales
  • Play for a draw to avoid relegation

The same applies for any project, the ends you want to achieve affect the means you use and way you go about it.

Before I go into the detail, let’s understand some of the terms I’m going to use.

Goal – result with a purpose, so be clear about the purpose, what’s it worth? The purpose affects what you do.

Means – the things, people, and time you have to use

Ways – how you use things, what you have to do

Ends – the results you want, the outcomes, benefits and goals you want to achieve

Stakeholders – who’s involved and what do they want?

Drivers – external things that make you act

Objective cascade

'Goal’ defined

There is a whole string of words that get used in these circumstances to mean almost the same thing; aim, objective, result, end, outcome. For the sake of consistency here I’ve chosen to use ‘goal’.

A goal is the end result you want to see happen because it has a worthwhile purpose.

The purpose is what makes it differ from a result or outcome. They are things that happen. They don’t become goals until you give them some meaning. If the result of the football match was a 2 – 0 win, who was it for, the fans, the team, or the chairman? What was their objective and how well was it met?

Goal types

Naturally, life is much more complex than this simple example. We have goals. The people around us have goals. Some are obvious, some are subtle, some we don’t even recognise. They can define your life or simply get you through the next five minutes. They can be the product of genius and deep analysis. They can be dumb. They can even be downright perverse. Sometimes we choose our own goals and sometimes they are thrust upon us.

Our goals are the things we want to see happen, whether we appreciate them or not. What we need is a method that helps us:

  • Recognise that the goal exists
  • Analyse whether it’s a valid goal or not
  • Select the right goals from the many options we face
  • Plan what has to be done to realise our goals
  • Do what has to be done to realise our goals

The goals come in all shapes and sizes. They can be:

  • Tangible / intangible – have lots of money in the bank or be surrounded by happier people
  • Time-bound (quick / long term/ indefinite)
  • External / internal, who's it all for? Whose goals are we working towards?
  • Owned / imposed – are we doing what we are told or using our autonomy to choose our own goals?

We choose the goals that best meet the things outside, the drivers. It’s rarely a simple one to one relation of one driver to one goal though.

Recognising the right Driver

We have to understand the drivers if we are to choose the right goals for ourselves. We also have to recognise that the drivers may not be set in stone. We can negotiate and change the drivers. And do more than simply react to them.


Now you know what has influenced your choices it's time to see who gets what out of the decisions you make. What's the value of your project? Who gets the benefits?

Selecting Benefits



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