A great START to the New Year


Probably heard of SMART goals – well this is smarter!

Sources: Phil Chambers



The New Year is a time for setting targets, making resolutions and beginning anew. You can increase the likelihood of achieving your goals in 2015 if you have a system in place. START as you mean to go on. Follow the acronym below…

State your goals clearly

It is very important to define what you want to achieve (see quote of the month above). If you have an ill-defined question or goal, this can have several detrimental effects: By devoting time and effort to solving a side issue you are not making good use of your resources. If you believe you have solved the problem but have not tackled the root cause it may well escalate while you attention is elsewhere. If you solve the wrong problem you may exacerbate the situation.

You have probably heard of SMART goals, an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. The trouble with goals that are ‘Achievable’ and ‘Realistic’ is that they are limited and uninspiring. If you’re not inspired and passionate about your goals you are far less likely to achieve them. By setting small ‘achievable’ goals we are actually setting ourselves up to fail. Bad experiences and fear of failure lead you to set goals that are even smaller or worse, just give up. You find yourself on a downward spiral to mediocrity. American pastor and motivational speaker Robert H Schuller said, “What would you do if you knew you could not  fail?” I agree with this sentiment – set massive audacious goals and then break them down into achievable and realistic steps.

Write your goals down and share them with a friend so that you have someone to hold you to account. It is often quoted that Yale (or Harvard Business School) conducted a study on the efficacy of clear written goals. This is actually an urban myth but some empirical research verifying this has been conducted by a group at Dominican University, Illinois.

Even better, create a Mind Map of your goals with plenty of vivid images. Don’t worry if you are not confident of your artistic abilities. You can use software such as iMindMap and import clip art or images from the internet. If drawing by hand you can scan into the computer and add images or even paste appropriate images onto your paper Mind Map.

Take action – Test

Having broken your goals down into manageable steps take action to achieve these. There will be instances when the action is not successful but it should be seen as a scientific experiment.
Regardless of the outcome you will get valuable data. Sir Humphry Davy, one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century – perhaps ever, said, “I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes.”

Analyse the results you got

Having conducted your test look at the results. Did you get the outcome you expected? If not, can you see why this may have been the case? What can you learn from your mistakes? Are there other factors you need to take into account? Were you working with false assumptions? You can once again use a Mind Map to draw together the results and possibly gain new  insights.

Refine the approach

Having analysed what happened, decide what you need to do differently. Small refinements make a big difference overall. This is the basis of Japanese principle of ‘Kaizen’. At Toyota they organize regular “Kaizen events,” where a team spends a day working to come up with
improvements, and then implement them. Employees are encouraged look for improvement opportunities, so they can have something to suggest to the team at the next event. This forms a culture of continuous improvement made up of many small steps.

Try again

Armed with your new insights and refinements to the original test, try again. The key to success is to take an iterative approach. Keep trying and improving, never giving up. In the words of Thomas Edison, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

START the year with these principles but remember that the same approach can be used to for any new project.