Why Are We Doing This? Setting A Clear Purpose & Goal
This past fall I volunteered for a fair run by a service organization I belong to. The weather was gorgeous. There was a variety of entertaining activities, great food, and good music. Over 145 children and their parents attended. Everyone seemed to have a great time, including the 20 volunteers. But at the end of the event, the volunteers and the coordinator who had put in numerous hours planning and organizing the event all seemed uncertain if it had been a success.
We asked ourselves how we should measure it – by the amount of money raised? By the interactions of the parents and children and their obvious pleasure? By the sense of accomplishment and increased commitment from the members of the service group? Some combination of the above?
When we were planning this event, we had become so focused on tactics, that none of us asked about the vision and mission of the event. We all just assumed we knew and that we were all in agreement. Perhaps that explains why at times we had conflict over how much money and time we should invest.
It quickly became evident that none of us were clear about the event’s purpose. Was it to raise money for the organization? Was it to provide a service for the community? Was it to build camaraderie among the club members? Was it all of the above? Without a clear vision for the purpose of the event, we had no sense of the appropriate metric to measure success.
This got me to thinking about the number of activities in organizations that take place without clear purpose or direction. For all the talk about the importance of vision and emphasis on strategy, how many of your team’s day-to-day tactical activities take place without clear goals?
It is imperative that you step back from every activity you are engaged in and ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish and why.
Before you schedule another meeting, make it a point to set a direction set for what you expect your team to do with the exchanged information.
Before you undertake another initiative, work with your team to establish agreed upon metrics for success.
As a senior manager or executive, your role is to help your team focus on attaining specific business results, rather than spending endless hours “coordinating.”
I challenge you to step back – for every activity – and ask yourself and your team:
- Why are we doing this — what overall purpose does this activity serve?
- How does this activity fit into your overall strategy and goals as the leader of the team and the organization?
- Toward what specific goal is this aimed?
- Is this the best way to achieve this goal?
- What key indicators will we use to measure whether or not the outcome of this activity was a success, an exposure of a weakness/strength, or failure?
Ask yourself these questions about every activity you engage in – not just the big events or initiatives – every activity. If you develop the habit and system for understanding the “why” before you start a new initiative, not only will you save time and frustration, but you will also engender commitment from your team to perform at a higher level. Most importantly, everyone will agree on how to measure your success.
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Dr. Joanne Irving is a strategic advisor and coach for senior executives at mid and large size companies, helping them dramatically improve business outcomes and the quality of life for themselves and those around them. Learn more.
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