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November 22, 2019

How to Hack 2020 With Agile Goal Setting


It’s the end of the year. You’re busy wrapping up current goals while getting as much committed work done as possible. It’s also time to look forward into 2020 toward the high-level goals you want to achieve.

If the past is any indicator, the world in 2020 will change more rapidly than ever, and you’ll need to adapt continuously. That means today’s greatest goal will probably not be considered “greatest” when you look back at the end of the year. What follows is a simple method for setting just-in-time goals, inspired by Agile methodologies, that will help you navigate next year with less conflict.

Step 1: Start S.M.A.R.T.

It is essential that your goals, whatever they may be, can flow from the visionary level down to more concrete tactical executions. The acronym “S.M.A.R.T.” provides an excellent framework for achieving this.

In general, each goal should be identified and defined so that it is:

Specific: The goal should clearly express exactly what should be achieved and also how that achievement, once completed, will make your world a better place.

Measurable: To say that we want to “improve” or “make better” or similar is not valuable. Define how you will know for certain that things are, in fact, better.

Achievable: Be cautious of overly or impossibly ambitious goals. They have an opposite effect on productivity and, because they are unattainable, become blockers — not motivators pulling the team forward.

Relevant: To be relevant, a goal should fit beneath the umbrella of your strategic themes. Though any company can achieve measurable and achievable goals, the better company makes sure those goals are relevant to an overarching strategic vision.

Timely: Create a high-level plan to understand how your goals fit into the year. This does not imply that you need to go in-depth. Planning at a road-map level can be very helpful (so long as you understand that the plan can and will change as you navigate the map).

Step 2: Prioritize With Proper Granularity

You probably have many goals you want to cross off by year’s end.

Which are most important?

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.

The first step is to ensure they all fit into your bigger, broader strategic vision. So, categorize or structure your goals using a hierarchy of some form. This will make it easier to filter out goals that do not bring you closer to that vision.

Also, while prioritizing, try to avoid dependencies among goals at all costs — they make the process painful. Instead, try to express goals so they are entirely independent from each other. (Beware, the most dangerous goals hide directly underneath the most important ones. They can easily become massive time consumers that divert your energy from your true priorities!)

Once your goals are defined and prioritized, you can begin breaking down high-level goals into all the work — activities, tasks, etc., — that’s essential to meeting them. Don’t waste your time breaking down lower-priority goals. Start with your highest-priority goals. By doing this — defining your goals, then breaking them down appropriately — you create a winning combination that gives you freedom to adjust your goals to constantly changing priorities.

Step 3: Make Them Happen

Once you have S.M.A.R.T. and prioritized goals (broken down appropriately), it’s time to achieve them! Now … let’s get back into setting up goals for next year in Helix Plan (formerly Hansoft) and start making them happen.

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