Goals? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Goals!
The middle ground between setting a grand strategy for your company and just going with the flow
When I left a good job in corporate America to start my one-person software development consulting and training company, Process Impact, I didn’t set myself any specific goals. Of course, I had the generic goal of, “Gee, I hope I get enough work to earn a living.” I had some encouraging signs of potential success based on the moonlighting I had been doing for a few years beforehand, with my employer’s full knowledge and approval. Other than that, though, I just thought I’d see how it went.
That was 24 years ago. It went better than I had any reason to expect. My first full year on my own, I made three times as much money as I had been making at my corporate job, where I had worked for 18 years. My company’s revenue went up from there. I was always fortunate to have all the work I wanted, whether that was a lot or a little bit. I substantially retired 14 years ago, although I still dabble a bit if something interesting comes along, like giving a presentation or writing a book.
When we flip the calendar to a new year each January, many people reflect to see if they accomplished the goals they had set for themselves 12 months earlier. They might craft a new set of goals for the upcoming year. I’ve never done that for Process Impact. I never defined a business plan or established specific achievement targets and time frames. When I had an idea for my business, I acted on it, such as writing an article or book, creating new training material, or developing some other product. Many of those ideas worked out well; others didn’t.
Would it have helped me to set specific goals periodically and monitor progress toward them? I doubt it. I’ve always been goal-oriented in the sense that I do what it takes to see projects through to completion. Setting goals large and small can provide a framework for action for people who are perhaps a bit less self-directed and could benefit from the structure. Not meeting certain goals could motivate them to refocus or redouble their efforts on the next cycle. But it could also make them feel like a failure if they don’t hit all of their targets. Who needs that?