Whether a task is self-assigned or assigned by another, there is a minimal set of facts one needs to perform the task successfully. These are:
- the goal of the task,
- the resources to be provided prior to starting it (inputs),
- the outputs the task must produce,
- the method that will be used to transform inputs into outputs (process),
- the test one completes to verify that the task was executed correctly (feedback), and
- a list of the individuals or groups with whom to communicate while performing the task (coordination), the information to be exchanged, and the protocols to follow with each.
This article provides you with guidance for representing the first component of this set of knowledge, the task's goal.
A goal describes the result your efforts seek to produce. It is the reference point you use to plan your work and evaluate whether you succeeded. A goal statement also enables you to orient others to what you are attempting to realize and therefore is the basis for eliciting their cooperative efforts in pursuing it. All of these benefits, however, depend on the goal being sound. If the goal is not sound, it will point you in the wrong direction, lack information you need to ensure your success, or provide erroneous criteria for your use in deciding whether you succeeded. A badly formed goal is just as potent as a well-formed goal—except that the former ensures failure while the later enables success. The process documented below and outlined in Exhibit 1 guides you in ensuring that the goal you form will enable your success, not ensure your failure.
Getting Ready Tasks
1. Document the “Why” Behind a GoalEvery goal has a reason that prompted its creation. The “why” is either to solve a problem or to advance the realization of some opportunity or larger purpose. You will use this information to define the result the goal must produce and to build and check its correctness. To document the
“Why” behind the goal you are about to write, you need to answer the following questions.
- What is the problem this goal is suppose to resolve or the opportunity it is to advance or realize?
- How, when, and where was the problem or opportunity detected?
- Who does this problem or opportunity involve or affect?
- How is the problem hurting whomever it involves or affects or how can the opportunity enhance these people or groups when it is realized?
- Why does the problem exist? In other words, what are its root causes? Which root cause is the goal eliminating? What needed elements must be put in place to advance or realize the opportunity the goal was established to advance? Which needed element is the goal putting in place?
- What previous efforts have been tried to remove this root cause or to put in place the needed element?
- Why did these efforts fail?
Record this information. Keep what you record as you will use it as you proceed through this process.
2. Understand the Structural Foundation of Every Goal
Every human goal involves transforming an object from a “given” state to a “desired” state. In the case of a problem, you are eliminating something that is unwanted. In the case of an opportunity, you are putting in place something that is needed. This act of transformation defines the result your goal must realize. To build a well-formed goal statement, you first need to know what is to be transformed (the Object ) and both its initial and desired final state. These elements—as well as who will do the transforming (the Actor )—constitute the structural foundation of every goal. They are: the object to be acted on, the initial state of the object and its intended final state, and the actor responsible for producing the final state (Exhibit 2). Before writing your goal statement, you must identify the beginning structural foundation of your goal. Here, learn the meaning of each of the structural foundation elements.