Goals: How can you hit a moving target?

How do we reach our goals if we keep changing them in mid-stream?

Whether we’re using law-of-attraction techniques or project management techniques, we must at some point stop changing where we’re trying to go.

In her Nonprofit World article “Do You Know Where Your Goals Are?” Michelle LaBrosse cites “feature creep” as a common blockage to meeting goals. While she is writing for a nonprofit project team or board of directors, most of us are going to recognize this blockage in our own lives:

Feature Creep: You keep adding new features, trying to make the end result better, but time is running out and your team is restless.

I know people, writers included, who create a plan to write a book (go back to school, buy a new house, start a business) who just can stop tinkering with the goal, or some part of the plan, for so long that sooner or later all the timeliness and passion are gone.

It’s easy for this to happen at a nonprofit or any other volunteer group effort. You want to be democratic and give everyone a say. But once you start moving, some people keep wanting to have another say and another one after that. If you shut them down, they accuse the volunteer leader of being a dictator. Meanwhile, those who are ready for action are getting bored and are missing meetings.

LaBrosse’s solution:

Use a change impact matrix. Plan to freeze the project at a specified time. The earlier this is done, the faster your project will move.

While that matrix can look very formal to a project manager, we can simply say that when deciding upon the goal and creating the plan in the first place, we need to understand impact of prospective or probable change along the way; is a change after the goal or project should have been nailed down of great or of minimal importance and, either way, what does it do to costs and the timeliness of the effort?

A lof of people–and groups–appear to keep goals as moving targets because it allows them the luxury of never having to commit to anything. They’re in a continual state of “mulling it over” whether “it” is a personal decision to change jobs or a nonprofit’s decision to re-do its out-of-date bylaws. Those who are doing this mulling it over often believe they are being proactive and that they are on the move.

Actually, they are blocked. They’re in infinite limbo because they are refusing to say THIS is what I’m going to do. Flexibility and adaptability are important, but we’ll be happier, I think, if we look at the number of moving targets we have and lasso a few of them and tie them down.

If you’re interested in easy-to-use information for your nonprofit and a subscription to Nonprofit World, contact www.snpo.org.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell

6 thoughts on “Goals: How can you hit a moving target?

  1. Malcolm,

    Well said. One of the best examples I have experienced are those in software development at a former company I worked for. Not only did they do a freeze, but the plans of action realized the need to compile a comprehensive list of “desired changes” for FUTURE releases of the software.

    This easily translates into any industry or non-profit for goal setting in that “all ideas are good ideas that simply need review to determine relevance”. Complete your goals but keep a list of desired additions and changes available for the next goal-setting session that will present itself AFTER the current goals are completed or reached.

    You can check us out at http://strategicsenseinc.wordpress.com for additional tips and tricks in Plans of Action or Leadership.

    Thanks again for this great post!

  2. A plan is going to have ongoing tweaks but that is different than changing direction. Sound like you should have a strategy written out and some flowcharts done. Once these things are in place it allows for tweaks but not an overhaul.

  3. Hi strategicsenseinc,

    Having owned a software company and worked for others, I’ve seen the good and the bad of moving-target applications. Whatever one does, they don’t want to miss the advertised launch date or come out with a program with less than the promoted functionality.

    Marketing always wants the stars, of course, and that’s both a blessing a curse for the software engineers and the folks writing the documentation (if any), help screens, and getting started guides.

    There will always be time later for fault reports and change orders.

    Thanks a lot for commenting.


  4. Hi feng Shui Candace,

    It’s always helpful when the project team understands the difference between a reasonable tweak and a course change. Flow charts and a list of major and minor project deadlines are a help.

    Thanks so much for stopping by.


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