No Resolutions just Goals

http://www.flickr.com/photos/katiedee/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/katiedee/

Recently my colleague Rob Lambert wrote about setting goals in his post A New Year – 2014 Goals. This is often a trend in the new year as many people make resolutions for themselves. Having thought through what a resolution is I came across this passage from Wikipedia which I really liked and will hopefully ring true to any of you who work in Agile teams.

 “…promise to do an act of self-improvement”

Sadly, more often than not, by this time of year people have often given up or are finding it increasingly hard to maintain their new promise for the year. But why do we seldom keep these resolutions or maintain these goals? At the time of writing there already recent posts such as Failed Your New Year’s Resolutions Already?

Is it that the goals are too unrealistic? or too vague?

What I do know is that changing our behaviors can be one of the most challenging things we can do as individuals and it often forces us to look into some of the foundations and ideals that we hold close, and that we live our lives by.

As a Scrum Master I recently went through this process in a training session and here’s how we tackled it:

What are you good at?

The most interesting point about this session was that we were asked to build on our strengths not our weaknesses. What naturally comes to mind when setting goals or resolutions is to focus on the things that we think we’re not doing so well at, however, this turned that thinking on its head. The theory behind this was that the changes we would be making would be far more rewarding as they were more likely to be successful as we already believed that we had some competence in these areas. As Dan and Chip Heath mention in their book Switch, the aim is to shrink the change. There is a far smaller gap between what we’re good at and where we want to be than what we’re not so good at.

Marking your own homework

As humans we’re intrinsically bad at self evaluation and in different ways this evaluation can have different biases. When it comes to goals and maintaining a specific behavior it is often the case that we make excuses for not doing something and take a very subjective view. Using someone else to monitor how you are doing gives you some objective feedback and also allows that person to generate idea’s and possibilities for why you did not achieve this. This does however require a certain amount of openness and honesty, something that we strive for in Agile and high performing teams.

In this situation we were asked to buddy-up with a colleague and each day review how we were doing with our habitual behaviors. This subtle but supportive approach gave pressure that you would not get individually and prevented you from being able to excuse your way out of not maintaining the behavior.

Focus on the Goals

When it comes to the new year there is no need for this to be a special time to set goals or resolutions, although sometimes a  compelling event produces this way of thinking. Resolutions are commitments and commitments are important as our facilitator Brindusa talks about in her post Commitment and winter holidays,

but I’m focused on my goals. Asking “what do I want to achieve?” is not necessarily defining how I get there giving me the flexibility to adapt and change my approach without fear of failure.

My Goals

One of my main goals for this year is to share my thoughts and learning’s through writing articles again. Although I have been doing this its mainly been internal to the company I work for. Previously I had failed at this endeavor so I’m using some of my learning’s to develop this new behavior. As we did in the training I need a buddy to provide supportive pressure and question when I’m not exhibiting my desired behavior……

….for this I’m counting on you.