Acheiving goals in a world of fools(including yourself)

I always keep talking about this with my friends.  About how I deal with the world and keep what assumptions in mind and how it has helped me avoid surprises.

(Thanks to http://www.foreveroutdoorvillage.com for the pic.)

There are two ways to look at the world (2 extremes) :
1) Assume everyone is innately good, everyone will give you expected results / deliveries in time.
2) Assume everyone is an innately lazy, poor memory fool (including yourself).

Of course these 2 are extremes and none of them is work-able in a practical world. But you need to know which one are you more bent towards. This also depends on what you can handle and what you cant.

I am one of those who hate unpleasant surprises which are caused by people around you. Either because they were lazy or they missed out certain things or because they were not diligent enough. I can’t tell you how much I hate such surprises. I am sure many of you would share similar emotions.

But there is a twist in this story. Sometimes, I myself catch the disease of laziness, lack of diligence or by missing out certain things and end up creating an un-pleasant surprise for my peers and myself. And I hate this the most!  And I am sure many of you have a similar story.

Okay…? So you realize that all of us are innate lazy fools.

Ok understood; how do you get stuff done then ? How do you still acheive your goals ?

And I am here to talk about a working style that will get you the best results in most of the real world situations. There is only 1 mantra – When you get a failure / surprise, which you would really hate getting again, don’t think its the people who are at fault or somebody is memory is poor. You should think its the process which is at fault and not people. Something must have gone wrong in the process.

So how can I fix the process ? 

  • KRAs (Incentives and Disincentives)
    • This one is the most powerful for long term fixes and more strategic tasks and deliverables.
    • Identify what exactly is critical for your business and create appropriate KRAs for different members of your organization.
    • Create incentives and disincentives both against the above defined KRAs.
    • Now be very careful with the incentives / disincentives. You might have to setup different ones for different roles or different individuals based on their needs, aspirations.
    • Example – lets say you want your team members to contribute towards hiring. Create a KRA in their appraisal process for contributions towards hiring and setup incentives for their contributions towards it.
  • Reviews
    • This is most effective in case of short term tasks / goals where high quality needs to be ensured.
    • I know it would take a lot of your cycles, but there is no other option. If high quality is critical for you and you don’t want to take a change, then you MUST NOT SKIP REVIEWS. Be very diligent about them.
    • Also, to save time for repetitive tasks – create best practice guidelines. So that people can go through the guidelines and fix things before they approach you for a review.
    • Example – a client sales pitch or a hiring pitch to your prospect employees. Setup a formal review everything thats critical to your business. Code reviews, design reviews are more formalized in today’s world but there are other subtle things which can make a big impact to your business but you have not reviewed or done quality control for it.
  • Reminders
    • This is very well understood and practiced as well. But whats not understood is that the reminders are not only for others.  You should setup reminders for yourself for anything thats critical.
    • You can setup calendar meetings for important items to remind you.
    • You can setup mobile alarms / email reminders.
    • You can ask your colleagues to remind you. Its not bad to ask your colleagues to remind you for things that are of utmost importance.
    • Setup reminders to remind other people.  This is extremely effective. Give it a shot.
  • Ownership with the right people
    • You might realize that many times that the people you are working with do not have the right expertise.  And your colleagues who does have that expertise is busy to take your task up.
    • In such a case – let the other not-so-expert guy take up the task but make the expert guy the “owner”. So that the expert can make sure that the right thing gets delivered through reviews, brainstorms and other quality control techniques.
    • This is extremely effective but needs the  expert’s band-width. You need to do your job to get him to “own” the task.  This would not be too hard in most of the scenarios.
  • Sharing success & failures in a public forum.
    • This is effective too. Most of us have a desire for fame and respect. This would utilize that part of psychology.
    • Sharing success in people motivates people like anything
    • Sharing a failure in public can be powerful but risky at the same time. You need to know how exactly this has to be done.  This can either motivate or demotivate people by a big degree. So be careful, share the failure but be positive in your tone. Your purpose to share the mistake is to share what you have learnt from it and not to defame your employee.  Again, very powerful but risky at the same time. Be careful with this atom bomb.
  • Tools
    • Last but not the least, tools can ease your problems to a great extent. Task management tools are already available in the market. So this one is very well identified. If you are not using one of these – I guess you need to adopt of lot of such productivity tools to make your operations, deliveries smoother.
    • Tools can be for anything – tracking anything (ideas,tasks, meetings etc), reviewing anything (docs, code, design etc), automating anything(like calculations, resume selections etc), sharing anything ( mind maps, docs etc)
    • But they have an overhead. You need to housekeep them.  So pick and choose the right ones which give you the convenience and the keep the overhead to the minimum.

While the above things are good. You should keep in mind that overdoing any of the above can affect your relationships with people, especially if they are not mature enough to keep business goals above their personal egos.   This is a big down-side of using this working style.   So you need to learn to present your ideas, your reminders in a positive way so that they express the positive intention behind it. The intention is NOT to call someone a fool. The intention is to understand that we are humans and not the best possible machines. Machines, tools, processes can help us deliver the best. 

The other down side of using this approach is that it would eat up a lot of your cycles.So be ready for it and try things out; see if they work for you.

All the best !

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7 thoughts on “Acheiving goals in a world of fools(including yourself)

  1. Well said Pankaj. Love to see the thought process…you got the right mantra.

    KRA’s are great to define, but sound very impersonal…i like to call them ‘success measures’. Everyone should know theirs..and the priorities. Very often one succeeds at something only to find something else was more important.

    Great tip on reminders….i really helps to have them.

    Great stuff…keep going!

    1. Hey Rahul ! Thanks for visiting my blog and the feedback !

      You are right about the KRA vs “Success Measures” part. The “impersonal” aspect creeps in at lot of other places as well (like updating status of tasks in a common excel sheet even though an in-person /email status has been communicated) and one needs to use this process mantra carefully to make sure people don’t mind following it.

    1. @Ronak, I am doing good! Thanks for the feedback ! There are many different tools I use like textpad for fast editing and especially its “block select mode”, then i use notes feature on my mobile a lot, reminders on my mobile calendar, outlook for offline mail access, google desktop search for mail search on outlook mails, browser bookmarks and xmarks to sync them across computers and browsers, task tracking tools for internal office related task tracking, google spreadsheets for tracking candidates in the hiring process etc. There are many more tools I use, will try to post a separate article on that 🙂

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