I recently wrote about setting unreasonable goals and a reader shared privately that I hadn’t addressed what they had hoped for. Nothing wrong with it, they were just in the middle of dealing with a setting unreasonable goals problem and were hoping I could provide some suggestions.
I take comments from readers seriously. I wondered what I could do to help. That was in the back of my mind while I went about my other daily activities. In the course of doing something completely irrelevant to their travails, I came upon The Y2K Problem, something that appeared in the journal Science back in April ’99.
I have no idea how many of you remember “The Y2K problem”. My wife took me to a CSNY2K concert that year (not a Y2K problem at all).
That phrase allowed lots of fools to be parted from their money. Planes were going to fall from the sky. Hospital equipment was going to stop functioning. Elevators would drop from the topfloors of buildings, crashing through basements and sub-basements.
A neighbor of mine (they’ve moved), had pallets — pallets! — of spam and bottled water in his basement. His pastor told everyone at his church to prepare, so he did. He told some of us this one afternoon about a month prior to the clock turning over another year. As he walked away, I casually said to some of the others, “He has food and water. I have a loaded ’45. Who do you think wins?”
That same neighbor later referred to the event as Apocalypse Not. He left his church. He went into hock buying up water and spam, evidently, also believing that banking and credit systems were going to fail.
And this has to do with ‘Setting Unreasonable Goals’ how?
Lots of businesses went nuts preparing for Y2k. Lots of companies took out massive amounts of insurance. When nothing happened they wanted the money they’d paid for insurance back. Another fools and their money thing, I guess.
All of them set goals for Y2k preparedness. The goals were unreasonable because a) there was no Y2k problem, b) the source “problem” wasn’t understood by the people making the solution decisions, c) people were doing it because everybody else was doing it (hey, wasn’t that the reason everybody got on the web? Is doing SEO/SEM? WA? Anybody see a pattern?), d) …
Setting Unreasonable Goals Rules
- Always make sure the problem exists before you attempt to fix it.
If the problem doesn’t really exist all you’ve done is spent money and done nothing.
- Make sure the units match.
This is something I learned studying physics. Before you work at a solution, make sure the types of inputs you have equal the types of outputs you’ll get. This has nothing to do with dollars (yet, anyway), it has to do with balance.
Let’s say you have a production problem. First, make sure everything that goes into the production cycle can be accounted for at the end of the production cycle (and this includes scrap and waste). If what goes in doesn’t equal what comes out then you’ve found the production problem and now you know how to fix it.
Now dollars come in because now you can determine how to solve it so that the dollars going in are less than the dollars coming out.
- Set goals only after you understand the Zero-state.
You want to change something. Noble enough. Do you understand everything involved in maintaining the status-quo? No? Then don’t touch anything!
Making changes without understanding how and why things are the way they are provides you the opportunity to do irreparable damage. Leave things alone until you can explain to other people how and why things are working as they are. Wait until they believe you or can at least follow you without questioning you.
When other people accept and understand your understanding, then, maybe(!), it’s safe to set goals and start making changes.
- Do something only if you’re sure it needs to be done.
The last reason to do something is because everyone else is doing it. Can you say “Lemmings”?
- Make sure your reach doesn’t exceed your grasp. Especially if you’re standing on a ladder.
Let’s assume you’ve gotten this far and that there really is a problem and it’s a sufficient enough problem to genuinely require a solution. Okay. Good. Fine.
Solve this problem, not every other problem that needs to be solved because you’re thinking “Heck, we’ve already cracked the hood, might as well clean everything up while we’re in there.”
Other problems that are genuine problems will be there after you’ve solved the original problem. You’ll have a sense of accomplishment rather than feeling overwhelmed. Also likely, solving the original problem will cause some of the others to fade away or make their solutions more obvious.
I sometimes wonder why logical processes and problem solving is no longer taught in schools.
But that’s another problem.
Please contact NextStage for information regarding presentations and trainings on this and other topics.
Upcoming Conferences: The 4th Annual SNCR Research Symposium & Awards Gala at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, 5-6 Nov 09
Come on by and say hello.
Sign up for The NextStage Irregular, our very irregular, definitely frequency-wise and probably topic-wise newsletter.