Have you ever found out too late that something was off about your goals?
Either because there wasn't enough thought in them or because in the end it seemed as all the effort and dedication was in vain, it most likely happened to most of us at some point already.
Although we learn from bad experiences, chances are that it isn't enough to understand just how important setting goals is in any business.
Let me make it clear with a very practical example.
Sailing in the morning, reading in the afternoon
A friend of mine once told me a popular fisherman's tale, shared over a bottle of good wine. Not only, but also because of that, this story has a very special meaning to me and it illustrates perfectly why it is so important to set goals.
It goes like this...
A rich businessman was spending his holidays in an island somewhere in the Pacific and after a couple of days, he noticed an interesting pattern.
Every day in the morning a young chap picked up his fisherman's boat from the beach and left shore with a few tourists. The young man would then be back near lunchtime, drop the tourist and eat some seafood in the nearest restaurant. His afternoons were then spent at the beach reading books.
The businessman was curious about the young man's business and approached him. "It seems you have an interesting business, sailing around the island with tourists." - he said.
"Thank you. I really like to meet new people and the short trip near the shore brings me peace every morning." - replied the young man.
"Interesting... I don't see many people doing what you're doing in the island, and there are indeed a lot of tourists. You could do some extra travels in the afternoon and, if I lend you some money, you could extend the business." - suggested the businessman.
"That seems like a lot of work. What would I achieve after that?" - inquired the young man.
"Well, imagine what would happen if you kept doing that for some years. You could buy more boats, expand your business and do tours on the other islands. I bet that after a few years you would have enough money to retire." - added the businessman.
The young man though about the suggestion in silence for a few seconds. After a brief period of time, he took a deep breath and replied:
"That is an interesting suggestion. I guess that some years after going through all that work I would have enough money to spend the rest of my days sailing in the morning and reading books at the beach in the afternoon..."
I find this to be a very good story because it shows us just how important it is to know why and how we're doing something and not just what.
Take the time to plan your goals
How we plan our goals is at least as important as the goals themselves. One of the most common causes for any business to fail is overlooking this first crucial step.
Setting and understanding a goal precedes any strategy towards the goal itself. In the case of the young fisherman, if he had built his business by the principles that the businessman found to be valuable, he would take the longest and hardest road to achieve the objective he had in mind.
Knowing what he wanted to achieve before outlining the strategy allowed him to pick the best route to what he considered to be his own success.
Can you imagine how easier it would be if we could do this with every important decision we face in our businesses?
Well, we can.
Back to the drawing board
"It's better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than halfway up one you don't."
The Office UK, S01E06
It's possible that if you look at your agenda, there's not a single minute to plan ahead. However, if you give it some further thought, isn't the aim of setting goals to build bridges that will allow us to get where we want, faster and easier?
We're getting somewhere now.
I had many meetings with leaders that were trying to make changes in projects or processes that were in place. I've seen people unhappy with the amount of features that their team were delivering, with how much money they were paying suppliers, with the financial results they had, with the number of bugs that went to production...
They are all legitimate concerns, but a great deal of unhappiness could be avoided if they didn't skip that one essential step.
Sometimes a fair deal of issues get in the way and it's easy to get lost in an infinite loop of discussions, but it gets easier if we give a step back and question why we're doing what we're doing.
Developing for success
In our business - developing web applications - it's impossible to survive without planning.
Every client has a goal in mind when they request our services and most of the times it's linked to their businesses success. Either to reach more clients, make it easier for users to fulfill specific tasks or to be able to sell their products online, every digital product has its purpose.
However, thinking about the end goal and the means to get there as isolated concepts is that fatal mistake that we have to avoid. There are numerous questions that we need to ask ourselves before starting a new project.
Is it the right mean to reach the end? Is the goal itself realistic? How'll the product be received by its public? Will the users see it as it's intended to be? Will they accept it?
Imagine that we were hired to develop a website for a small local business based in London that wanted to expand to Paris. It would be in French and would have all the available products, but wouldn't be able to ship overseas, given their limitations.
The desired means and the end goal are there, but it's clear that it wouldn't be long before they realized how important it was to plan everything beforehand, instead of rushing to a really bad option and unrealistic ends.
Because the answers are never as simple as in the given example, a great deal of our process is dedicated to research and ideate the product.
It couldn't be any other way.
Planning is crucial.
What's your goal?
I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work.
There are no absolutes or a perfect solution for every problem. In a different situation, the advice of the businessman would be useful and even in that particular case it could've been, if the goals of the young man were different.
If he wanted to leave the island and visit the places from where the tourists came from, he didn't had the resources to do so and would need that precious help.
The same happens as we go on with our business. There are no easy roads, but if we plan ahead very carefully, it does get a little easier.
It might take some time, but we need to understand what our goal is, why we defined it and how we'll get there.
So, what's your goal and how do you plan to get there?
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