Goals Suck (Somewhat)
I just finished reading Jason Fried’s (of Basecamp fame) new book “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work,” which for many reasons, is likely my favorite business book this year.
In Jason’s book, you will find a chapter where he explains that Basecamp doesn’t set goals – which, on first blush, sounds counterintuitive. Weren’t goals that magic panacea which gets us to where we want to be, makes sure everything runs on time, and our wildest dreams come true? Jason says: Not so fast. And I tend to agree.
The amount of time I have spent creating, negotiating and collaborating on goal documents for pretty much every company I ever worked for is insane. Moreover, the amount of time we then spend on using these goal documents to drive the business was, without fail, minuscule.
Of course, you need to have a strong sense of where you are going, and what success looks like to make sure you and your team are moving in the right direction. I would argue though that this is much more a smart application of purpose and mission, combined with a healthy understanding of your business fundamentals.
Not setting, and thus chasing, specific goals and KPIs prevents you from doing stupid stuff to reach those goals (you won’t believe what I have seen people do just to make their sales quota). At the same time, it gives you the flexibility to adjust to a market which is more ambiguous and dynamic than ever before.
Here is what we do at radical: We have a strong sense of purpose and mission, we talk through what we want to achieve (in narrative form), we agree on core principles, and then we empower everyone on our extended team to build what matters. We check in with the broader group regularly to check if we are on track, if assumptions or market realities have changed and if we have any new insights which make us revise our narrative. And then we get back to work.