Everyone knows we need goals. Most of us have one. But is it the right one? And can it be measured?

Let’s begin with the latter. How to measure goals. Here we have few options, and in reality, only one. The SMART goal-setting framework that originates from the 1980’s. SMART goals stand for:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – what realistic results can we achieve, given available resources.
  • Time-bound – specify when we will achieve the result(s).

A couple of observations pop out. It doesn’t particularly set the heart on fire. And it looks a bit black and white.

Only the Agile Survives in the Digital World

Let’s start with the black and white. SMART goals and their attributes rely on what can be quantified. Because what can be quantified can ben measured. And in a slow-changing world, that is enough. Which is why we have a business world that is driven by numbers.

But this is changing. Increasing change and disruption make things harder to quantify. And creates a new level of near-constant uncertainty. One approach to combat change is to understand what doesn’t change.

But the thing that doesn’t change or changes least is qualitative, not quantitative. What stays constant are our values, purpose, and what is important to us. SMART goals are just not enough. We need goals that embody purpose and meaning. Not only numbers.

Read also: Self-Disruption is Essential to be Agile

The Dual Strengths of Our Mind

First, we are going to enlist one of my favourite philosophers, Albert Einstein. He understood the duality of our mind, the left and right side.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift. – Albert Einstein

What might Einstein mean by that? And perhaps more important, what does it have to do with goals?

Let’s begin by looking at the brain, and its left and right sides.

seismic smart goals jesper lowgren

Now an interesting pattern emerges. Different kinds of thinking take place in the two sides. SMART goals fit in the left.  What do we do in the right?

We are running at half speed

The problems with SMART goals become clear. They only address half of the brain, the left side.

And to make matters worse, it is the other side we need most in times of change and disruption. We need goals that also engage the right side. Goals that speak to what is meaningful to us and inspires us. And that provides the impetus for achieving something we believe.

These kinds of goals are different and speak more to the heart than to the mind.

New Goals for a New Era

The SEISMIC goal-setting framework captures right-side goals. SEISMIC, which means shaking and vibration at the surface of the earth. Resulting from underground movement along a fault plane of volcanic activity. A SEISMIC goal is a goal that flourishes under SEISMIC conditions because it defines what is near immovable.

Here is a description of how a SEISMIC framework can look like. It is taken from my book FROM ORDINARY TO EXTRAORDINARY. The bold italics I have added later, to give it business context.

Soar – How high dare we imagine? What is our vision?
Empower – How much of our unique skills will we use? Do we have a well-defined differentiator?
Inspire – How much impetus does it give us? Does our differentiator give us a competitive advantage?
Sustain – How much does it sustain us? Are we confident our competitive advantage extends at least into the mid-term?
Meaningful – How much difference does it make?  Do we make a positive impact beyond our self-interest?
Integrate – How does it align with our values? Do we define our values and re-enforce them?
Co-create – How much of it can we create with others? Is our value multiplier greater than 1.0?

How do you set goals for your business? Do you have a way of incorporating meaning-creation, as well as value-creation?


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Jesper Lowgren

Jesper Lowgren is a published author, keynote speaker, member of board of advisors for Enterprise Transformation 2020, and a business & digital transformation thought-leader with Telstra Limited, Australia’s largest telecommunications provider.

He is a published author of two books on transformation. Both are available on Amazon.

- ON PURPOSE – The Path to Extraordinary Business Transformation.
- FROM ORDINARY TO EXTRAORDINARY – How to Re-Imagine Yourself and Re-Define what is Possible.

Jesper is Swedish and apologises for any Swenglish creeping into his writing.
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