Yep goals are my pet topic this week, everyone is being exposed to my goal focus, my partner, my kids and my businesses (plural) and therefore the teams – the lucky ones at OptimalBI in NZ are getting to set their annual expert goal at the moment, where they state a “thing” they will become an expert in over the course of this calendar year and define a plan on how they will achieve it – which is in simple terms their training and personal development plan.

We took this approach for two reasons – 1) Stating our goals in terms of “I will be an expert in….” is a very specific style of goal setting and requires a very precise training and development plan which in most cases involves achieving a number of milestones (certification(s), successful projects with hours of experience, conferences etc) and 2) the goals are very personal, part of an individuals personal development plan rather than goals set by the company they work for to benefit that company. The only constraining factors we place on the goals are they need to generally “fit” into our business or be of benefit to our business, and cost needs to be reasonable (nope we don’t set a budget just have a discussion about reasonable cost, so no cruise ship courses).

Sounds easy but it’s often not. Technical goals can be easier to define in this form, someone sets themselves a goal like “I will be an expert in Microsoft Business Intelligence, to achieve this I will attain certification XYZ, attend TechEd, and be involved in 2 x projects utilising XYZ tools” then lists out how that will happen, what courses they need to attend, certs to sit, cost and time to achieve this goal. There is a whole heap of work to achieve the goal but it is easier to describe it. Soft skill goals or experience based goals are much harder to both define and then detail the how, luckily we now have a Capability Coach who can assist everyone with this process.

Shane and I are completely realistic and know that our awesome team will outgrow us at some stage and in turn move onto their next challenges, or if we are lucky go forth and build their own businesses with us in the background providing support. So with this in mind we believe the expert goal focus provides individuals with a mandate for personal development, which in some instances might be heading on a very specific path, so our intention is to support our individual team members in achieving their own goals, their personal growth will in turn support our maturity and strength as a business.
It seems however people naturally look for the constraints and in considering their personal expert goal look to us to set guidance in terms of what the business needs them to focus on. That alignment with our business plans wasn’t something we had considered.

There have been a few key lessons we have learned from this process:
> most people find it hard to visualise what it will mean once they have achieved their expert goals and describe success
> setting the goals, agreeing the plan and timeframe without asking for regular progress reports or checkins resulted in only half the team working towards and meeting their goals
> we weren’t prepared for the need to align personal goals with those of the company – a lovely thing to have not considered and we are thrilled of course people want to ensure their training will be of benefit and in the direction we plan to take the company
> Shane and I didn’t put enough work into defining the “what needs to be done” process for our own goals so struggled to achieve them.

We still love the concept of setting a single expert which is both specific and strong, vs setting many smaller vague and often unachievable goals. As a result of 2013 we have a Certified Data Scientist, a Certified Microsoft Business Intelligence specialist and a Graphic Designer, all awesome achievements that will be leveraged and built on in 2014.

My advice is take a look at the goals set in your own business, are they strong and do people really strive to attain them? If not think about our expert idea or research others, I’m sure there are plenty of frameworks out there. Happy goal setting, Vic.