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Effective Goal Setting: Focus on Systems Versus Goals

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Setting goals does little to help achieve them, and therefore little to drive results in your organization. Instead, put your energy into building repeatable systems that create the success habits you need to move forward.

Effective Goal Setting Is More About The Process, Not The Goal

We've all tried to change our lives by setting strong goals for our jobs, schooling, or money matters. However, the stark reality is that these goals, be it short term or long-term goals, often remain unfulfilled. 


Even though making good goals is common in our lives and jobs, we rarely achieve them. This brings us to an intriguing concept: goals versus systems.


The Goal Expectation

"What's your goal?" is a question we encounter regularly. Regardless of ‘types of goals’, from family to work, effective goals are seen as the beacon guiding our efforts. 


Corporations are no different, with a myriad of monthly and annual targets set for every conceivable metric. We've been taught that there's a right way to set goals. They need to be SMART goals, which means specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time bound. This method is seen as the standard for effective goal setting.

Yet with all this focus on effective goal setting, one fact remains: setting goals does little to help us achieve them. In fact, a 2018 study doe by the University of Scranton shows that human beings only achieve their goals 8% of the time

The problem isn't with the goals themselves but rather with our mind setting meaning and approach. When we set goals, we tend to ignore the crucial step of creating an action plan.  The traditional focus on goal setting overshadows a crucial element of success: the underlying system.

Create Processes Not Goals

The answer comes from the recognition that all outcomes are the result of processes. Processes are defined as a set of interrelated steps or tasks that produce an outcome. In this way, the tasks are broken down into a series of smaller goals. Therefore, if we want to change our outcomes, we need to reengineer our processes in order to stay on track.


In his popular book "Atomic Habits," James Clear argues that success is shaped by our systems and habits. He explains that it's these processes we follow, not the goals themselves, that determine our success.

We see that the emphasis on goals versus systems is misplaced. Clear argues that it's not the goals that define our success, but the habits and systems we develop. This is where the concept of systems versus goals gains momentum. 


Goals give us a direction to aim for, while systems create a path for continuous progress. The importance of goals is often exaggerated, and they come with many limitations:

  1. Winners and losers have the same goals.

  2. Achieving a goal is a momentary change resulting in temporary happiness.

  3. Goals are at odds with long-term, sustainable progress.

Instead of focusing on the goal, 

“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems.”
James Clear

Process management is a broad topic, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Every leader needs to grasp the ideas behind managing processes. It's the processes and systems their teams use that lead to results. 


Effective Goal Setting in the Shadow of Systems

The pursuit of effective goal setting is not without merit—it provides a direction. However, the fixation on the goal often eclipses the importance of the process. To truly finish goals, one must cultivate a system that ensures consistent action that will get you over the finish line. 


Mind Setting Meaning: A New Paradigm

The meaning of mind setting goes beyond mere goal orientation. It's about creating a mindset that values the journey as much as the destination. By concentrating on systems, we nurture a mindset that is adaptable and time bound. This resilience helps us continue to make progress, even when specific goals appear far away.


Unleashing the Potential of Your Organization

 We often view our organizations as groups of people filling different roles, typically arranged in a hierarchical structure. This is helpful and serves a purpose. Another perspective is to see it as a system. This system is a network of connected processes that deliver results for our customers, employees, and owners.

 This change from concentrating on goals to emphasizing systems could unlock your organization's true potential. It can lead to significantly improved results. Breaking goals down into important tasks and action steps allows you to stay motivated and track progress. 

 If you’d like to learn more about how to accomplish your goals or other ways you can take the simpler path to creating a great business, connect with us or consider attending one of our upcoming leadership events.