Will you be SMART, or will you Stretch? – Thoughts on Goals and Goal-Setting from Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

Smarter Better FasterHere are two excerpts from Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg. This comes from the GE discovery, in the Jack Welch era, that SMART goals alone were not enough.

Going forward, every executive and department, in addition to delivering specific and achievable and timely objectives, would also have to identify a stretch goal—an aim so ambitious that managers couldn’t describe, at least initially, how they would achieve it. Everyone, Welch said, had to partake in “bullet train thinking.” …It essentially means using dreams to set business targets—with no real idea of how to get there. If you do know how to get there—it’s not a stretch target. …Stretch goals “serve as jolting events that disrupt complacency and promote new ways of thinking.”
Studies show that if a stretch goal is audacious, it can spark innovation. It can also cause panic and convince people that success is impossible because the goal is too big. …The reason why we need both stretch goals and SMART goals is that audaciousness, on its own, can be terrifying. …Stretch goals, paired with SMART thinking, can help put the impossible within reach. 

Here’s the idea: SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) can create a culture of simple to-do lists, checking things off, doing what has been decided, with little reason to stretch and reach and dream of what could be. The book actually describes people who would create tiny little tasks and check them off as a SMART goal successfully accomplished.

Such SMART goals help a lot of people get a whole lot done. But, such goals can became crutches, and provide excuses why someone is too busy to go after the big-picture, big-deal dreaming that could lead to the next big breakthroughs.

at the initial launch, on the Tokyo to Osaka route

The bullet train reference is to the astonishing story of Japan’s bullet train success (120 mph, in 1964. They simply put tunnels through mountains so the trains would have practically no turns, thus allowing for the high speed travel).

So, what shall we do with this?

#1 – Don’t just allow the hours of every day to be spent doing what is already easy to do.

#2 – Spend some time every week thinking about about some “I don’t know how we will accomplish this” stretch goal.

#3– Then, figure out how to accomplish that stretch goal.

So, what about you? Do you have good, keep-you-on-task SMART goals? Then good for you; such SMART goals will help  you get more accomplished.

But, that is not enough. Do you also have stretch goals to push you forward? If not, it’s time to work on those stretch goals.


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