This three-part series looks at the ins and outs of setting goals.
- Part 1: Start at the end and you can get anywhere
- Part 2: S.M.A.R.T. goals get finished first
- Part 3: The goal is to have a goal
Does this sound familiar: You’re working on a project when the phone rings. Your client/boss/CEO has a short-turn meeting that must be planned, and you need to scramble to get it done. Halfway through, the plan changes or the meeting is canceled. The work you were doing before the call remains halfway finished, and people are clamoring for those deliverables. You’ve worked your tail off but are behind schedule somehow.
So, how do you tame that beast called chaos? It’s not by working harder, as the bags under your eyes will attest. It’s not so much about doing as it is about communicating. A few key conversations could turn chaos into victory.
When a client (internal or external) asks me to produce something, the first question I ask is, “What’s your goal?” Without one, we can’t begin, or if we do, we’ll spin our wheels and waste resources. What people call a goal and what actually is a goal often are different things.
There are three keys to uncovering the true goal of a meeting and creating a S.M.A.R.T goal:
1. Ask all key stakeholders what they think the goal is
Have each reply in writing, then compare the answers. Chances are strong that you’ll have as many visions as you have replies. Until one voice speaks to the plan, you have chaos.
If the person in charge is too many tiers above you, reach out to those on the management levels you can reach. Get them on the same page. Then have the highest person in that food chain get sign-off from the person in charge at the top.
2. Make sure everyone understands the cost of any changes
For instance, before sending the venue a contract to sign, you likely let the finance team know what the ramifications are once the venue is booked. (If you or someone in your department isn’t doing this, you’re out of compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley, or SOX, Act, and need to address that immediately.)
Next time you send that report, copy the powers that be so that the cost of the decision is understood. If there is any question in their minds about dates, location or other event details, make sure they know that deciding next week instead of now may cost thousands of dollars. This information may motivate them.
Make sure your deliverables include prices. So if the printer needs artwork by the 1st to do the project at a standard rate but will charge a penalty if artwork arrives late,, make sure everyone knows this. When people see the cost of their indecision or procrastination, actions tend to change.
3. Send regular topline updates
These should include spending milestones and deadlines and go to anyone with the potential to effect change on the plan. By keeping everyone informed with brief, concise reports, you increase the odds of people paying attention. (If the emails are not read, try not to get frustrated. It’s not about you.)
Once you start down this communication and planning path, there are endless opportunities to improve your executive team’s turnaround time, raise awareness levels and, hopefully, change unhelpful behavior. So, make your goal a S.M.A.R.T one, and get the people around you on the same page. Victory is a much nicer work companion than chaos.
Share your victories and chaos stories in the comment box below and/or at @SMECHRISTY or firstname.lastname@example.org.