Personal story – motivation for Objectives Driven

As a business owner and operator I am hyper-aware of the disparity between Outcomes and Activities. If I could count the number if consultants that sold hours not results… However, I am equally guilty of falling into the trap of pushing out big aspirational ideas, which get watered down or dissolved all together, and in doing so fail to meet their original Objective.

When we founded our first business, my business partner and I had grand ambitions. We set out (15+ years ago) with the understanding that a business entity can (and would) have more positive impact in the world than we could as individuals.

Although our work did not on the surface appear to be changing the world (we built website and online tools) we focused on high quality of outcomes for meaningful, even worthy clients and causes. During one project for example we lead the creation of a portal on climate change science and projections.

Setting up and running a successful business is like any complex and lengthy endeavour, it affords plenty of opportunity for distraction and diversion, real diversions, not trivial stuff – websites go down, hackers hack and projects go off the rails. Whilst fighting fires it can be challenging to retain focus on changing the world.

It took us a while, Id like to say 5 years, but it was probably more like 8 or 9, but we eventually got pretty good at our trade, and running the business that supported it. I would not go as far as to say we mastered it, perhaps this is an impossible aim in the fast-evolving virtual world of the web.

We also kept working on worthy projects (research communications, system support for associations etc), but in reality we lost focus on the big objective, and it was therefore, only in small part, achieved.

What then did I take away from this experience? Many things, including just how hard it is to maintain and achieve goals in complex situations. This was true at the meta-level, i.e. our businesses contribution to our personal aspirations, but also at a more practical day-to-day level in each and every project.

Our projects were often intricate and multi-disciplined, including technology, design, copy-writing and communications expertise. They often ran over months and occasionally years, and as the unfolded it became common for us all to lose track of the original goals and motivations for the project.

Whilst we were swimming up stream, in both the projects and the business, we lost sight of The Why, and sometimes ended up kicking the wrong goal.

What then, do we need to do to kick the right goals?

1.       Clearly specify objectives – in detail, ‘The Why’ of the project

2.       Clearly link the objectives to the project deliverables

3.       Keep ‘The Why’ alive and ‘front of mind’ – use it to drive tactical decisions

4.       When they are forthcoming check that deliverables address ‘The Why’

5.       Be aware that the project is not itself the outcome – it only enables the outcome, which in turn support the objectives

One challenge in all of this is that it requires a little additional effort and often financial investment up front, that many are not prepared to invest.

Our audacious goal with is to make this process realistic and attainable to all, in the domain of IT projects at least, and in doing so halve the number of failing projects.