The Uncertainty Mindset 2019-2020

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Vaughn Tan22nd January 2021 at 1:55pm

My approach to goal-setting is heterodox.

Conventional consultants and business school academics love goal-setting exercises to achieve "strategic alignment" around clear goals. This kind of conventional goal-setting (and especially the idea of the OKR and the SMART goal) is my major peeve. It takes heaps of time and yet doesn't seem to achieve very much other than a sense of having worked hard at setting goals.

My approach to goal-setting is to focus not on the goals themselves but on forcing people to articulate what tradeoffs are acceptable—in other words, what they value which they are willing to give up to get what they really want to get. Patterning in acceptable tradeoffs tends to be consistent across ranges of futures/situations, even when there is uncertainty.

An important part of this different approach is to force a negotiated convergence of tradeoffs between the different people in a team or parts of the organization. This invariably leads to much better true alignment of actions and thus increases autonomy without reducing coordination.

There is, to my knowledge, no system or recommended method for eliciting tradeoffs in relation to goals other than the one I developed. It's called Boris, and you can read about it here.

See also: comfort, design, freedom, forcing function, motivation, routines.