Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Set Goals With Intention but Not Attachment

A colleague and friend of mine, Jeff DeCagna, contended in a strategy training program I attended that "strategic planning is dead." He stated that we should keep a strategic focus, constantly ask strategic questions, have ongoing strategy sessions, but not lock ourselves into a specific, long-term strategic plan. Why? Because the environment changes constantly and therefore the strategy-making process must be nimble and continuous. A detailed, written document is not conducive to "changing on the fly."

There's a common acronym used in goal-setting: SMART, which stands for "Specific," "Measurable," "Attainable," "Realistic" and "Time-Bound" or "Time-Limited." It is believed that all good goals should have these attributes. The guidelines are good, as they build in some accountability.

I'd like to take the concept a little further. I suggest adding two additional attributes: "Intention" and "Non-attachment." While the SMART attributes allow for accountability, they don't necessarily foster flexibility and the ability to "change on the fly."

In addition to listing out the specifics, the metrics and time-frames for accomplishing a goal, I also like to ask what is my intention? In other words, to what end am I setting this goal? Is it really to accomplish the specifics I laid out? Or can it take shape in a slightly -- or even significantly -- different way and still achieve my intention, the direction I'm heading?

This flows naturally into the second attribute: non-attachment. Much as a static strategic plan isn't conducive to being nimble, static goals may not allow for adjustments in a changing environment. A goal as written may not keep us headed toward our intention if the wind shifts -- as so often is the case with new technology and a constantly changing socio-political and economic climate. Therefore, we might not want to become too attached to our goals. We should remain committed to our intention, but not so much to being SMART.