Do You Start With Goals?

When you start a project, do you start by setting goals? And if you don’t, does it matter? That’s been one of the lively topics of discussion this week in my Collaboration Skills Summer School.

Turns I don’t usually start with goal-setting – and neither do several of my students. As with so many things in life, when you dig down to the details with a few Clean Language questions you discover that everyone is different.

The model we were using was the Karma Cycle from Caitlin Walker’s excellent book From Contempt To Curiosity. The notion is that excellent collaborators set outcomes/goals/targets, take action, get feedback, and then set more goals.  Sounds straightforward like that.

But what if, for you, the cycle actually starts with action: you tend to do something fairly random, get feedback, and then decide where you want to go? “Ready, fire, aim” as the cliche has it.

This approach, or something like it, has been widely recommended as a good approach for entrepreneurs and software developers, and certainly seems preferable to analysis paralysis.

Or is it possible to start with feedback? Perhaps you don’t really get moving until someone else lets you know how your inaction is affecting them?

It’s easy, and probably a bit of a waste of time, to get drawn into the philosophy. But what’s been interesting for me about playing with the model in this way has been the possibilities it’s suggested for ways of doing things differently.

If I tend to be a “ready, fire, aim” expert, what happens when I do a bit more planning? I’m testing this out straight away – by taking action! I’ve booked some help from a planning enthusiast this afternoon.

If you tend to be a planner, what happens when you try taking more action?

And how can we all gather more useful feedback in real time – when it seems there is an international shortage?

  • Where do you tend to get started on the cycle? Please post your comments below.
  • Many thanks to Ian Webster for the initial question that prompted this discussion.

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