There was a sudden silence. Nobody really knew what to say. Gina stared at her notepad and took a swallow of cold coffee. She felt frustrated again, but probably no more so than anyone else in the room. She looked up.
"Isn't this meeting just one more merry-go-round ride?"
Jaws, as usual, had been silent all morning. It was a nickname he was proud of, because it acknowledged that he spoke little, and that when he spoke, he always said something important. This was one of those moments.
"I'm not surprised we can't agree on how to do it," he said. "We never really agreed on what we were trying to do."
More silence, as everyone took that in.
Too often, we get ahead of ourselves — we start working on the how before we really agree on the what. Sometimes we do this because "how" issues are simpler, and sometimes we think we agree on the "what" before we actually do.
Whatever the reason for this inverted approach to problem solving, it helps to have a clear fix on the goal. Here are some ways to remember to first agree on the needle before you debate about how to thread it.
If you don't know where you're going…
- …you can't tell when you've arrived.
- …your latest failure might be a good thing — or bad — but you can't tell.
- If you don't know
where you're going,
you can't tell
when you've arrived…and if you don't know where you are, you could be in more trouble than you think.
- …it could be worse — you could think you know, and be wrong.
- …the size of the crowd that's following you might be a comfort, but you still don't know where you're going.
- …pretending otherwise fools only those who don't know where they're going either.
- …some of the people who disagree with each other about where you're going are probably right. But which ones?
- …you probably also don't know why you're going there.
- …it doesn't matter whether or not you're faster than the competition.
- …cutting the cost of getting there could be a waste of money.
- …there's no point arguing about the best way to get there.
- …there's no point arguing about the best way to argue about the best way to get there.
- …you might be headed away from where you ought to be.
- …asking for directions won't do much good.
- …going faster might be a bad idea.
- …going slower might be even worse.
- …following other people who seem to know where they're going won't get you there.
- …you might already be there.
For more on achieving and inspiring goals, see "Corrales Mentales," Point Lookout for July 4, 2001; "Commitment Makes It Easier," Point Lookout for October 16, 2002; "Beyond WIIFM," Point Lookout for August 13, 2003; "Your Wishing Wand," Point Lookout for October 8, 2003; "Give It Your All," Point Lookout for May 19, 2004; "Workplace Myths: Motivating People," Point Lookout for July 19, 2006; "Astonishing Successes," Point Lookout for January 31, 2007, and "Achieving Goals: Inspiring Passion and Action," Point Lookout for February 14, 2007.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Shooting Ourselves in the Feet
- When you give a demo to a small audience, there's a danger of overwhelming them in a behavior I call
"swarming." Here are some tips for terrific demos to small audiences.
- Team-Building Travails
- Team-building is one of the most common forms of team "training." If only it were the most
effective, we'd be in a lot better shape than we are. How can we get more out of the effort we spend
- The Good, the Bad, and the Complicated
- In fiction and movies, the world is often simple. There's a protagonist, a goal, and a series of obstacles.
The protagonists and goals are good, and the obstacles are bad. Real life is more complicated.
- Virtual Clutter: II
- Thorough de-cluttering at work involves more than organizing equipment and those piles of documents
that tend to accumulate so mysteriously. We must also address the countless non-physical entities that
make work life so complicated — the virtual clutter.
- Heart with Mind
- We say people have "heart" when they continue to pursue a goal despite obstacles that would
discourage almost everyone. We say that people are stubborn when they continue to pursue a goal that
we regard as unachievable. What are our choices when achieving the goal is difficult?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.