Musings of ls6

Are your goals fuzzy?

While the ”Gamestorming” book by Gray is mostly used as a reference of workshop tools I found an interesting thought in the introductory section. They noticed that some goals are ”fuzzy” by nature which implies that ”a project must proceed based on intuition, hypotheses and guesses”.

At first I found it interesting and a fitting counterexample to an ”industrial goal” that can be achieved in a predictable and repeatable way but after some consideration I think it is a wrong approach and it stems from the confusion between means and ends.

I would like very much my ends (a.k.a. goals) to be concrete and never fuzzy, especially in business. Otherwise how am I supposed to know when I have reached them? Or, at least, that I am on the right course—or, in other words, I am using the right means—to have a chance of getting to them? I believe that the goals we set are always ”solid”—as opposed to ”fuzzy”—even if sometmies we don’t realize that conciously. Most often we just don’t take enough time to figure out what we really mean. Let’s take an example: who wants to be unhappy with his or her life? I haven’t met such a person so I can safely assume that all the people I know have a very clear and solid goal: they want to have a happy life. In my book it is not a fuzzy goal at all: it is very conrete and it can be even easily measured but what is fuzzy, especially if one doesn’t reflect on the subject, is the path to this goal.

In business, this is way easier. In business the goal is way easier to define and more often than not it has already been defined before we take on a project. The business must bring money in order to survive, one’s bosses need to be satisfied, one’s subordinates mustn’t be exhausted all of the time, the product must be shipped… What is fuzzy about these goals? Not much. What is unclear in the ”knowledge work” era is what should we do in order to achieve these goals and, clearly, there is no single recipe that will guarantee success in all possible circumstances. Nevertheless there is an approach that will guide us in the general direction of success and it sounds like this:

Figure out your real goals, put a number on them if you can1 and while you are going about your project keep an eye on your goals and frequently check if you are getting closer to them.

Let’s go back to the ”Gamestorming” the book for a moment. They say ”In the knowledge work we need our goals to be fuzzy”—that’s exactly why old-school execs have a problem accepting the ”new way of working”. And from where they look, they are right. We, the ”disruptive” and the ”creative” consistently do not communicate one thing: what our way of working is going to deliver. We say what’s wrong with the old way, and we can prove it on many different planes but the problem is that the old way have worked for years and we have difficult time showing what exactly we will better and prove that it worked after the fact.

1. You really can put a number on (quantify) any goal but that is a subject for a speparate post