I have always had good banter with my girly friends that I am waiting for the right millionaire to come along and build me an enormous shoe cupboard. Alas, after some time I have relented in my waiting and opted to build it for myself, being the independent/impatient woman that I am. (When I say build it for myself, I mean pay some company to come in and do it for me ).
Having a goal is really important to me and so for this particular project I set myself the following:
‘A sliding door wardrobe that allows the storage of all of my shoes, clothes and handbags. The finish will be of high quality and will fit in with the look and feel of the rest of the house’
I didn’t say it had to be a complex goal, but you need to know what you are trying to achieve so that you know whether you have met it when the project is completed. The goal will also dictate my response to impediments that come my way, such as when the carpet in the room needed to be taken up. Now I could have done this myself, but I choose to get a professional fitter in at extra cost to avoid compromising quality and going against my goal.
There have been two events recently that have made me really re-consider my views on setting goals, specifically in the work environment. They are:
- Reading the book The Goal by Eli Goldratt.
- Replaying the Get Kanban Game at the Accredited Kanban Trainer (AKT) Course with each team having specific goals.
Firstly The Goal is an awesome book and if you haven’t read it then I would seriously consider adding it to your literary backlog. It tells the story of Alex Rogo who manages a production plant where everything is behind schedule and things are looking dire. He is given three months to turn things around. Remembering a distant acquaintance he met called Jonah, he sets about putting things right in the factory by applying certain practices that we know by the name the Theory of constraints. To do this though he needs to really think about what the factory is trying to achieve. I won’t spoil it!
Secondly during my AKT course I replayed the Get Kanban game, but this time the two teams were both given different goals.
- Team 1 - To make the most money
- Team 2 - To have the shortest lead time
To me the goal was very clear, we needed to reduce our Work In Progress (WIP) limit to the lowest figure that was sensible and in this case that was 1. In real life you wouldn’t normally expect a team to have a WIP of 1, but as this was the game then fine
What surprised me is how quickly during the game that people forgot what the goal was. An example being an expedite task has come into the queue and if we complete it by a certain time then we get extra money. Now if I was in team 1 then this expedite task would have been the highest priority for us to complete, however I was in team 2 and so an expedite task would only extend the lead time, therefore breaking our goal. This scenario was thrown at us several times throughout the game and each time the team fell into the same trap. I found myself having to re-iterate.
“ How will this help us meet our goal of having the shortest lead time”
Now in fairness this was a game and we were all excited to be playing it, but how many times does this happen in reality in organisation that we work in every day.
That user story that Spongebob thinks is really important gets argued to the top of the queue, but in reality it doesn’t fit with the overall objective of the organisation or feature.
If I am honest I have seen this behaviour a lot and I am guilty of this myself.
So what can we do about it?
- Understand the goal of your organisation – Like in the book never be afraid to question whether that is actually the right one. Chances are you could have made the wrong assumption.
- Understand the goal of the feature that you are working on and how it relates to the organisational goal.
- Create sprint goals to keep the teams true.
- Take a whole team approach to challenging when something looks to derail you – never be afraid to say no!
- Take a personal approach to ask yourself ‘How will this help us meet our goal of X’ .
It is very easy to be caught up in the moment and go with the flow, but what is the impact of this?
What changes do you need to make to ensure that you, your team or your organisation keep true to what it is trying to achieve?
Now there are 20 plus occurrences of the word goal or goals in this blog and so hopefully by now you know how important they are