Many years ago, I was interviewing for my very first management position. As I remember, the conversation went something like this:
Hiring manager: What would you say is your biggest weakness?
Me: I don’t do very much in the way of goal setting.
Hiring manager: So, what is your process for getting things done?
Me: I sort of think about what needs to get done then work towards accomplishing that.
Me: Oh, I guess I do some goal setting after all.
In my effort to think like a manager, I had made the mistake of thinking that goal setting was only that thing you did during your annual performance review (or around New Year’s). The hiring manager either took pity on me or was impressed that I had that epiphany, so he immediately asked me how soon I was available.
Fast forward to today. Sharlyn and I are working on an ongoing project when we discover that the company we had contracted with had made a sizeable error. For a few minutes, we discussed a number of different ways to address the matter. Then, at the same time, we both said, “What do we ultimately want to come out of this?”
That’s the question that identifies the goal and helps formulate the plan to accomplish it. Goals come in all shapes and sizes. When you realize that, planning and goal setting becomes much more manageable – regardless of the size and scope of the project. And that is very powerful!
Once we know the result we’re looking for, is it possible to apply this thinking to something like our unretirement?
The BHAG – Business guru Jim Collins wrote about the Big Hairy Audacious Goal, which is the huge goal that we are planning to accomplish. For Sharlyn and I, it’s probably the same as everyone – having enough money for a comfortable retirement.
Plan Goals – In planning for retirement, there are several goals that help us accomplish the BHAG. Reducing expenses is a great example. So, we identified one of our large annual expenses – groceries – and put together a plan to reduce that expense. The plan goal was to lower grocery spending and we ended up cutting that expense in half.
Micro Goals – Some may call these short-term goals. In our example, there were many ways to cut grocery costs. Especially since, for us at that time, going to the grocery store was just walking up and down the aisles picking up anything we liked. One very effective solution was to plan our meals so all we purchased was what we needed for each meal.
While this was a very effective and helpful (and enlightening!) exercise, it’s no surprise that cutting grocery costs alone didn’t provide enough extra money for our BHAG of a comfortable retirement. But it was an important step in the overall planning process. And every step of the way, we ask ourselves what we want to accomplish because accomplishing all of those micro goals will add up toward the BHAG.
Oh, did I get the job? No. But that got me started on planning for the next opportunity.