Creating a Push From the Past or a Pull From the Future
Setting clear goals are important but the current fixation of the SMART goal setting strategy might be needed to be reconsidered, at least when you lead competent co-workers. You have probably been drilled in the SMART goal setting strategy, which preaches that goals shall be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely in order for people to be able to strive for that goal. I want to raise a warning finger when you working as a manager in a knowledge-based organization, you need to be very careful what you which for, you will probably get it.
When you lead competent coworkers they probably know more than the managers, therefor it might be hard to create both short term and long term success based on SMART goals by someone that is just based on historical behavior without getting an undesirable side effect. They might not know witch goal to be set or how to reach the goal but they have a far higher ability to adapt their way of work and invent new solutions than what a reactive SMART goal would lead to.
Let’s say that you like to decrease the “hardening” time at the end of a release cycle. Therefor a SMART goal is set to “cutting the verification time by 50% within the next three iterations”. This target goal will probably be reached, but often at the expense of more defects getting through to the release.
Another approach is to challenge the team to redesign the way development works so that defects are discovered and fixed as soon as possible after they are injected into the code. With this challenge, a team would quit focusing o how many feature are delivered and start thinking about how to make sure that every delivered feature is defect-free. The team would introduce practices like automated test, continuous integration and code reviewing. When done well, this approach has a track record of dramatically decreasing testing time, by far more than half and at the same time raising quality and productivity. The system verification time was just an effect of how the development was conducted. If you only look on the verification and test time it might be easy to not see the whole cycle and just trying to make the tester more effective.
The point is that goals that are SMART often are reached, but often solved in a reactive way that leads to new side effects. When you lead competent, proficient and expert coworkers they have an ability to reach further than the SMART goal, when they are given a challenge that is open-ended.
A Challenge is different from fixed performance targets:
- Challenges are not necessarily SMART; they are open-ended, customer-centric, and designed to elicit passion and pride.
- Challenges communicate confidence that the team is intelligent, innovative, capable of thinking for themselves, and trusted to do their best to further the purpose of the organization.
- Challenges flow from long-term vision of what is necessary to be successful over time and contain enough information that the team can act independently and with confidence that their work will contribute to achieving the vision.
- Thus challenges are a pull from the future rather than a forecast of the future.