Tag Archives: goal setting

Musings on objectives setting

A few days ago, I had a short Twitter exchange with a couple of friends on  objectives. Sara mentioned that she was not setting objectives for the New Year. Nacho made a point of my objective tracking approach, which I detailed in a post in the blog back in 2011 (Personal mid-year review). Unfortunately (or fortunately) I do not follow such a thorough approach anymore (1), though I do set myself some personal yearly objectives, have them noted down, track them, etc.

In that post from 2011, I made reference to a previous post in which I commented on a HBR study and a post post by Sid Savara. The main takeaways from those readings were: have the goals in written, have plans towards achieving them and share the objectives with someone (at least with someone you have confidence with, not necessarily with everyone!).

In this post I quickly wanted to share some examples of the objectives I set to myself (2):

  • Reading: as I mentioned in a previous post in which I shared a summary of (my) 2015, I set myself a minimum objective of reading 10 books a year. I do not read any book for the sake of meeting the objective. It is rather that I have dozens of very much dear books in the shelves waiting to be read and I keep buying (and grabbing from my parents’ home) books that I think would teach me something or add some value. Ideally, I would like to read about 2 books a month. That would make over 20 books in a year, however, during some periods along a year I read less often, I found that I am not that fast reader (in English and French and neither in Spanish!) nor all the books that I pick are that easy or short, so I linger every year around the 10 books. Do I share the objective? Up to now, not explicitly, though I force myself to write at least a yearly post commenting the books I have read… thus, I do have to read them! Follow up: it is not very structured, though I know at any moment the books I have read along the year (I keep a record) and every now and then make some numbers of pages to be read per day, per week, in order to complete this or that book at a given point in time.
  • Writing: here I always remember a tip from Conor Neill, a professor at IESE, who says that we should strive to write something everyday, at least 500 words (see the blog post where he explains the benefits of doing so, Writing to reflect. Mindful leadership). In my case, apart from job emails, files, presentations…, I do not write (and reflect on) for this blog (or any other format) on personal interests everyday. Ever since I started the blog, back in February 2010, I intended to write regularly. What does that mean? Initially I aimed at publishing 8 posts per month, I lowered this target lately to about 6 posts per month. That would make about 70 a year. In 2015 I just met that target. Previously I had always been above 80 posts. See below the monthly production.

Blog post per month

Blog post per year

  • Speaking: on this front I was very consistent when I joined Toastmasters in December 2007, trying to give a public speech every two months. I kept being quite engaged until more or less mid 2012. I then dropped Toastmasters until I re-engaged myself in mid 2014 at the corporate club of Airbus in Toulouse. I am now trying to figure out the pace at which the club attendance allows and I am able to prepare myself to speak often (by speaking I refer to giving prepared speeches, as every two weeks in the club almost everyone gets to speak either with a role of evaluator, in table topics, etc). Thus, a vague objective (speaking regularly), not quantified, not yet in written, though shared.
  • Flying: for this objective scheduling is key. As I mentioned in the post where I shared my path to the private pilot license (PPL), it took me 4 years to obtain it mainly due to the difficulty in finding slots. From March 2015 (once I had passed the theoretical exam) I was more rigorous, always trying to have at least two slots scheduled with the instructor and airplanes booked at any point in time. This enabled that, even if many slots had to be cancelled due to weather conditions (or any other issue), I was more regular with the flying, I managed to obtain the license and fly over 19 hours. For the 2016, the goal is clear: to fulfil the requirements to maintain the license, that is 12 flight hours with 6 take offs and landings in the last 6 months prior to the license expiry date. On top of that, in order to carry passengers it is required to have completed 3 take offs and landings in the previous 90 days. Thus, the requirements by law help you in aiming at flying often. On the other hand, I was trained to fly on Robin DR 400 airplanes and another objective I have is to learn to fly another model, Diamond DA20 in order to have more flexibility with the scheduling of airplanes and be able to fly oftenhow often is often? At least a flight per month (ideally 2), about 2 flight hours a month… this objective, then, is well followed up with the aeroclub scheduling tools, navigation logs, etc.
  • Running: with the running I have many and varied objectives. From running (e.g.) 2,000 km in a year, to completing at least 2 marathons a year, to beating personal best times (PBs) in different distances (10k, half marathon and marathon), to other miscellanea objectives (e.g. running x days in a given week, y kilometres in a given week or month, running some special race, running a number of days while on holidays…). For the completion of marathons and aiming at PBs I do schedule training plans at the online tool provided by Garmin (the provider of the GPS watch I use). Thus, the objectives are clearly defined, shared (with Luca, colleagues, in social media) and well followed up.

And it is here that I wanted to stress on the definition of the goal, its writing and its sharing. I will take the objective “running 2,000 km”. In 2014 I started to publish online in Twitter regularly both the goal and how I was progressing.

With the online tool I have the objective clearly written down and tracked, I know whether I am ahead or behind, the weekly or monthly mileage needed to attain the goal, etc. The sharing of the goal in my inner circles helps with the finding slots to run. The sharing of the goal more widely encourages and pushes oneself. See below how I reached the objective in 2015. You can see that while the training towards Seville (February) and Madrid (April) marathons lasted I was well ahead the reference. After those marathons took place I fell behind, even if I only fully stopped for a week after Madrid marathon. I kept running below the reference weekly mileage until the end of June, when I was 70km behind… I then subscribed for Millau (September) and started building up mileage for it, then extended the training up to Toulouse marathon (October), stopped only 3 days after it and, since then, I always was around or over the reference to attain the goal (even if I had to stop for over a week at the end of November due to a cold that got me down with severe throat ache).

Running mileage 2015 progression

***

It is clear that each one has a different approach and there is not a single one that fits us all. Many will not want to be constrained by fixed goals, nor be reminded of them by having them written, even less sharing some goal they are unsure to meet, not to talk about publishing it on social media! This is just how I go about trying to meet some personal objectives.

(1) At least not for every objective and plotting a global indicator.

(2) These goals are easy to share others are kept in the inner circles.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Personal development & HR

Goals Gone Wild

In these first months of the year many teams in many firms have gone or are going through annual interviews and goals setting for the year 2015.

Last week I read an interesting Schumpeter column in The Economist, “The quantified serf: Management by goal-setting is making a comeback, its flaws supposedly fixed”.

The article mainly covered two issues: one was the newest trend in goal-setting, “quantified work”, as promoted by BetterWorks, whereby employees collaborate in setting objectives for peers. This apparently improves performance and transparency. The article cautions, however, that rewards should not be linked to these goals and that an attainment of 60-70% of goals set in this way should be viewed as normal rather than failure.

The second issue covered by the article was side-effects of goal-setting. The article introduced the paper “Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting” [PDF, 500KB] by Lisa D. Ordóñez, Maurice E. Schweitzer, Adam D. Galinsky and Max H. Bazerman. In this post I wanted to comment on this paper.

Published in 2009, the paper makes a review of literature on goal-setting and even if admitting that studies have demonstrated specific and challenging goals can improve performance, it concludes that:

“For decades, scholars have prescribed goal setting as an all-purpose remedy for employee motivation. Rather than dispensing goal setting as a benign, over-the-counter treatment for students of management, experts need to conceptualize goal setting as a prescription strength medication that requires careful dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision. […]”

Before reaching to that conclusion the paper examines several aspects of goals and why they may produce harmful side effects; to name a few:

  • When goals are too specific… people overlook other important features of a task. As an example the authors provide the case of the Ford Pinto, about which I wrote a post in the blog long ago.
  • When there are too many goals… individuals are prone to concentrate on only one goal.
  • When the time horizon is inappropriate… may harm the organization in the long run. Think of quarterly reports and companies trying to beat analysts’ estimates or their own guidance. That is why Coca Cola ceased to provide quarterly guidance back in 2002.
  • When goals are too challenging… they may shift risk attitudes, promote unethical behaviour. An example given describes how Sears’ automotive unit set a target of fee to be charged to customers. This triggered that employees started charging for unnecessary repairs to customers to meet the goals!
  • When goals are complex, specific, challenging… they may inhibit learning.
  • Goals may create a culture of competition instead of cooperation.
  • Goal setting increases extrinsic motivation… and thus can harm intrinsic motivation.

Linked to the message given in the conclusion (“experts need to conceptualize goal setting as a prescription strength medication that requires careful dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision”), the authors also propose the following warning signal and a check list to be used when setting goals.

Goals Gone Wild Warning Signal.

Goals Gone Wild warning signal.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal development & HR

Personal mid-year review (2012)

As I mentioned in my 2011 summary post, I set up some objectives for 2012 during January. This year I have 12 main objectives, each with several milestones or sub-objectives attached to it. And as I did in 2011, now it is time to have a personal mid-year review.

After a bit more than half of the year has passed and as happened to me last year I am behind my objectives, though this time much behind. I’ve met 27,9% so far and I’m lagging behind in practically everyone except for travelling, reading, saving and blogging ones. Despite of what it may seem, I am quite behind the running/sports one! And also behind the continuous learning, languages, and the rest.

The objectives were many and ambitious (some will not be met anyway), but the year still has got 5 months ahead and with the coming of Luca to Toulouse in September many habits will change, let’s see how I do in the final review in December.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal development & HR

Summary of (my) 2011

Let me share with you a brief recap of my 2011 (as I already did last year).

If I then characterized 2010 as a learning year, I would say 2011 was a year on the run.

At the beginning of the year I set out my objectives for 2011, of which I have achieved 71.4% (just above my 70% target!). One of them was only to “become again a frequent runner”, for which I set up some modest steps, e.g., buy new running shoes, run 3 days before mid-January, run a 10k popular race before November, lose some 10kg by June… If there was a yearly objective which I widely met, it was this one:

Último kilómetro de los 100km de Millau 2011.

Last kilometre at the ultramarathon "100km de Millau".

  • I ran over 170 days along the year, covering over 1,800 kilometres.
  • I took part in 11 popular races, including 6 of 10km, 2 half marathons, 1 marathon (42km) and 1 ultramarathon (100km). More races and more kilometres than ever before.
  • I found myself running in Granada, Villa del Río, Madrid, Torrelodones, Luarca, Rijswijk, Wijchen, Toulouse, Luz Saint Sauveur, Chicago, Washington DC, Des Moines, Montreal…

Learning. After taking some classes in Madrid, I continued studying French and now I feel more confident when facing shop attendants :-). I had to learn and continue to learn lots of new things every day at the new job where I landed about a year ago.

I still enjoy as learning moments the print weekly issues of The Economist or the monthly issues of Scientific American. I delivered the necessary speeches to become ACB within Toastmasters (though lately I’ve missed more meetings than I should). Finally, I read a dozen books along the year (a bit less than in previous years, though some in the new eReader!), being the ones I liked the most the following: first, second and third.

Investing & helping others. I set myself a high objective of saving and investing: I overachieved it by around 50%. I once mentioned it in Twitter: the best thing behind investing is the discipline of saving that is behind it. I not only dedicated a percentage of personal income to savings but as I announced in a post at the beginning of 2010, I directed a percentage to different charities. I initially set it out to be 0.7% of my income, but after raising some funds and contributing others to charities related to the races in which I am taking part, in the end this percentage has been well over 1% in 2011.

Travelling. We together visited Montreal, Ottawa, DC, Chicago, Omaha, and several places in the south of France and throughout Spain. The moment that I liked the most was attending the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting, no doubt.

Javi 2.0. I continued to often write in this blog with some remarkable posts. I admit that my twitter account is one of my biggest sources of information / distraction.

Sports. Apart from the running, I recently re-started playing paddle with colleagues, became a kind of fan of the rugby local team, Stade Toulousain, had to subscribe to Canal + not to miss any of Real Madrid matches while living abroad.

Other reasons for joy have been:

  • our friends Teresa & Alberto, María & Óscar, Isa & Pedro got married,
  • we welcomed the newborns Mar, Hugo, Luis and Eneko, while another of our friends is pregnant today (that we know),
  • my sister Beatriz started working as an intern; my brother Jaime continued to enjoy his job in Airbus and moved to a new apartment; my mother Fidela continued to take several courses (and to give wonderful massages) and my father Juan Bautista finally and happily retired (after working for 43 years!).
  • Luca completed all the requirements to become a full-fledged lawyer, winning some court cases in the process.

To close the year, I started taking flight lessons, pursuing another childhood dream. This will allow me to continue learning and experiencing new things!

Now it’s time to update the objectives setting for 2012. This year the exercise will be easier as I already have the methodology and the habit. If the objectives are well chosen and challenging enough, next year’s account will be even shinier.

I wish you the same: a shinier 2012, enjoy it!

2 Comments

Filed under Personal development & HR

Personal mid-year review

At the beginning of the year I wrote a post about New Year’s resolutions and how this year I was going to take a more structured approach with them. I also explained who and how influenced me to do that.

About 3 weeks ago I started what would be my personal mid-year review and then I shared in Twitter the thought of sharing my approach with you. This is what I want to do in this post.

During some days in January, I brainstormed about what could be my objectives and the approach to be followed. In the end I selected 10 main objectives (“Become a frequent runner again”, “Read over 15 books / become eReader”, “Toastmasters: become ACB & Pres Dis AG”…). Then each of those objectives were split then in about 8-12 milestones to be achieved, each milestone driving me towards meeting the bigger goal.

For example, regarding the running, the first milestones were moderately easy ones as seen today (“Run 3 days before mid January”, “Measure several tracks where to run in TLS”, “Run 8-10 days in January”…) but they meant a great deal of breaking habits or creating new habits.

Once I had the complete list of goals and smaller milestones, I gave a weight to each of them (delivering the 7th speech towards ACB in Toastmasters was worth 12% of the “Toastmasters” goal) and a due date. If I missed the due date but met the milestone afterwards I deducted some amount out of the initial value (that means, I’ll never reach 100% at the end of the year, but if I’m close enough I’ll be more than glad!).

Spreadsheet with goals, milestones, weights, due dates...

Then I set up a kind of earned value management system to track my performance in respect to those goals. This enabled me to see how I was advancing and how I was supposed to be advancing (sure, I said a kind of as there is nothing related to the cost I incurred in achieving those goals, while the value would be assimilated to the weight).

Finally, I not only had this in written but I shared my goals with Luca. This helps in making myself more accountable with those objectives. Sure, you won’t necessarily want that everybody knows your personal objectives, neither do I. But just showing them to someone may help. To me it worked!

Every now and then I get a question from her like “When did you say you would sign up for the French course?”, “Have you already contracted the cleaning services company?”. Those reminders, together with the due dates help me a great deal in catching up with all those milestones that I keep postponing.

Of course, with some objectives I am way more advanced than with others. But let me tell you that the overall result is making me quite happy with the approach, even tough by the end of June I was way behind the schedule!

Goals achievement vs. plan (end June).

Another outcome of the mid-year review has been that I started brainstorming again with myself in order to add new milestones to previous goals (e.g. more running milestones, new trips, more speeches) and adding entirely new goals.

My humble advice: try something similar that fits you, force yourself a little bit, fight the resistance and reap the benefits down the road. See you at the year-end review!

8 Comments

Filed under Personal development & HR

New Year’s resolutions vs. goal setting

During the Table Topics session of last week’s Toastmasters Madrid meeting, a friend asked one of the members whether he was the type of person that used to set goals for himself or have New Year’s resolutions.

The member was very determined in his answer: “yes, I am definitely a fan of goal-setting”. He cited a study in Harvard Business School where they found that the 3% of graduates who had written goals, and plans to accomplish them, ten years later were earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together… (it doesn’t say whether within that 3% there was a single individual, the kind of Bill Gates, who made himself just those ten times of the remaining 97%).

Then I saw a Facebook status update by another friend: “85% of my personal goals for this year – achieved.” (Bear in mind that this fellow is an outstanding individual).

Finally, two days ago I found in Twitter  a retweet of another post by Sid Savara about how to undertake a personal year-end review.

… Why not?

I decided that this year I’ll start writing down my goals and attaching a detailed plan to achieve them, instead of just thinking on January 1st of a few well-intentioned resolutions such as “learn languages”, “lose some pounds”, etc., and forgetting them by the 3rd of January. (By the way, thanks to Sergio, Javier, Alex & Conor for their inspiration).

If by 2021 I am making ten times as 97% of the readers of this blog combined, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you well in advance!

4 Comments

Filed under Education, Toastmasters, Twitter & Media