012 Better Goals don’t work

If you consider for a moment what you find attractive in a person, you likely have quite a precise idea in your mind. The interesting thing about the term ‘attractive’ however is that while everyone understands the meaning of the term, no one can agree on what it means. The person sat next to you is likely to have a very different picture in their mind. Much like the term ‘attractive’, ‘better’ faces the same fate. As such it should never find its way into your organisational goals unless it is not accurately defined. Listen on to this episode of Live It, Lead IT!, for more on the subject!

Just as everyone has a different idea of what is attractive, so everyone understands the words ‘best’ and ‘better’ differently. Take for example your favourite movie. Ask your partner about their favourite and discuss the reasons behind your choices. You’ll soon see both of you have very different criteria for defining quality. Now let us look at how the term becomes problematic in an organisational setting.


The job of a leader is to ensure objectives are precise. If X is the starting point and Y is the end point, it creates a much clearer picture of the task that is ahead and how to achieve it. Everyone knows what they need to work on. “Make this process better,” is not an instruction you can give your employees. Your employees will each interpret this differently. The word ‘better’ when only works when you compare it to something in the setting of organisational goals. I’ll give you one example.


In my last company, we knew we wanted to be better, but we didn’t know how. We had X amount of calls coming in, and we had some tension on the customer side, so the question came up, ‘How do you increase customer satisfaction’? First, we took a look at the numbers and decided as a first step we wanted to improve satisfaction levels up from last year. But measuring customer satisfaction over the phones was a challenge. However, I did know that I was getting complaints from various heads of departments every couple of weeks. So I defined the objective as the reduction of complaints coming through on a weekly basis. This was the best that I could measure, but it still gave us something concrete by which we could assess our performance.


So, always remember, ‘Better’ is not a word for objectives, and if you are going to use it make sure it’s precise and measurable.




Olaf Kapinski [icon name=”smile-o” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]