Goals have a property we can call immediacy. An immediate goal is directly connected to whatever you're doing right now. For instance, right now I'm typing this with the goal of finishing the article you're reading. By contrast, less immediate goals are less directly connected to what you're doing right now. For me, right now, a less immediate goal is to help project teams work more effectively. I'm typing this, in part, because I hope that people reading it might gain some insights that they can apply.
A goal's immediacy determines the effectiveness of any particular goal achievement strategy. To achieve a less immediate goal, focus on it. Contemplate it. Imagine it. Imagine achieving it. Imagine having achieved it. When you do, you wake up your passion, and you unconsciously do what's necessary to achieve that goal. [Note]
Imagining success is far less effective for immediate goals. If I want an ice cream cone from the store across the street, imagining it probably won't make it happen. To achieve immediate goals, focus on what you have to do, and then you'll take action.
For a less immediate goal, focus on the goal, and the doing will take care of itself. For a more immediate goal, focus on the doing, and the goal will take care of itself. It's when we get the two confused that we get into trouble.
To help people and organizations achieve goals, use these same principles. As a manager or leader, you're responsible for your own personal goals, but you also take some responsibility for organizational goals and for goals of subordinates.
When the goal is immediate, do what you can to help people focus on what they need to do to achieve the goal. When the goal is less immediate, do what you can to help them visualize achieving it.
It's when we get
passion and action
confused that we get
into troubleFor instance, a near-term project milestone is an immediate goal. Although focusing the attention of the team on the milestone might be helpful, still more helpful would be a focus on this week's work, because that's what people must do to achieve the goal.
On the other hand, since goals related to, say, business development tend to be less immediate, a more vision-oriented approach is likely to be more effective for them. Focusing a team's energies on what life will be like when we complete this set of projects could provide people with the guidance they need to set their own priorities consistent with that less immediate goal.
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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; "Knowing Where You're Going," Point Lookout for April 20, 2005; "Workplace Myths: Motivating People," Point Lookout for July 19, 2006; and "Astonishing Successes," Point Lookout for January 31, 2007.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Most of us get too much email. Some is spam, but even if we figured out how to eliminate spam, most
would still agree that we get too much email. What's happening? And what can we do about it?
- Help for Asking for Help
- When we ask for help, from peers or from those with organizational power, we have some choices. How
we go about it can determine whether we get the help we need, in time for the help to help.
- What Makes a Good Question?
- In group discussion or group problem solving, many of us focus on being the first one to provide the
answer. The right answer can be good; but often, the right question can be better.
- Indicators of Lock-In: II
- When a group of decision makers "locks in" on a choice, they can persist in that course even
when others have concluded that the choice is folly. Here's Part II of a set of indicators of lock-in.
- Bottlenecks: II
- When some people take on so much work that they become "bottlenecks," they expose the organization
to risks. Managing those risks is a first step to ending the bottlenecking pattern.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 23: Power Distance and Teams
- One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.
- And on October 30: Power Distance and Risk
- Managing or responding to project risks is much easier when team culture encourages people to report problems and question any plans they have reason to doubt. Here are five examples that show how such encouragement helps to manage risk. Available here and by RSS on October 30.
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Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
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- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- 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.