Means and Aims
Psychologist. Master in Human Resources.
Most of the companies work with the next operation model: Definition of the objective (What are we going to do?), plan development to make them real (How do we make it?) and implementation of the plan (Action!). The first stage concerns the top managers, the second middle managers and specialists and the third the field workers.
Once the goals are settled by the direction, the machine is set out and ALL the companies resources are commited: Time, money and personal energy.
An error from a field worker can normally be easily fixed; from a specialist can be expensive. But, what happens when the goals are not the right ones? The consequences could be catastrophic for the company.
How could we then minimize the risk when we set the company´s goals?
Here I emphasize some tips that could be good to read before entering a management´s meeting:
Take time to define the goals. It´s a creative process, with trial and error. In the discussion process we have to leave our ego at the door. The best idea must win, not the biggest ego or the person with the highest rank.
Always ask yourself these questions: Why is this goal important? Is there anything more important or urgent than this goal? This goal... is interesting for the company... or for me?
Don´t mistake means with aims. The goals must be clear and contribute as ditectly as possible for the improvement of the situation of our present and future clients and our company. Remodelling the facility is a mean, but never can be an aim. A goal could be, for example, to increase the market share of a private hospital. Improvement of patient traffic could diminish the waiting time; this could lead to higher client satisfaction and probably the market share. But perhaps an architectonic redesign is not the best solution, but a new software to improve the appointmets management. Or a new advertising campaign or an effort to get more contracts from the medical insurance companies. All of it are means, but not goals. If our goal is clear (increase market share) we can change very fast our means if the results are not the desired. If we hang on to means, as if they are the ends and we are wrong, then we are lost.
Why then are so many companies focused on the means and not on the goals?
Because it´s easy to be confused between to be busy and to be effective. When you are busy you feel useful, but that alone gets you nowhere. When we are busy with the right activity we are effective and go directly towards our goal. That can be easily seen in an insurance company´s sales force: The difference of sales between the stars and the mediocre vendors is huge despite the diference in workhours. Why? we have to see which activities they make. The stars are focused in the activities that more sales bring to the company and awake the need and interest of the customers. The mediocre vendors take turns around secondary activities, administrative activities and devote enormous amount of time to small clients in which they have a good relationship with and those that are easy to manage.
Of course that´s not premeditated. Every vendor wants to be a star, to be successful. Every manager wants the success for his company, team and himself.
The problem has several easy psychological explanations:
We are visual beigns. The activity we have in front of our eyes takes our attention preventing us to see the overview.
We are indulgent when we judge ourselves. This prevent us from analysing withous biases if what we do takes us to our goal or not.
We don´t like to be judged. We don´t accept reviews willingly. Even though they are constructive.
We are social animals (1). It´s very difficult not to pay attention to the requirements of others. It´s very difficult to say no to a workmate, or simple delay the help. So we sabotage often our own goals to satisfy other´s. Or in the worst cases, a full department disrupts amongst themselves and nobody takes the work forward.
We are social animals (2). As long as we want to maintain the social peace and a good relationship with others we are not able to tell other people how they could improve. So we avoid conflicts.
The solution: To see the problem from the outside.
A company solution to these problems goes through the implementation of a "candor culture" in which saying the truth and early detection problems are boosted. It´s a complex programme but well implemented with a good professional will lead to exceptional results. The secret is that the people feel safe when they say what they think, that the author of an idea doesn´t see the other´s oppinions as a menace, and to make everyone participate. In Pixar they have established periodical meetings called "Brain trust", in which they politely but ruthless ( That´s the point) critizice all and every scene of the films in which they work.
A personal solution can get through the work whith an external consulter, who can analyse independently the goals, means an work processes of a manager or specialist. Her work is not to define the goals, but to help to get to them. This procces is called externalization. The manager sees through the psychologist eye´s her/his own performance, like seeing him/herself on stage.
This new perspective let the manager observe and correct behaviours and activities to come back to the way that lead direct to the goal. Apart from this "Self discovery" process, the role of the psychologist is controlling, following up and reinforcement of the behaviours that lead to the aim´s fulfillment and therefore to succeed.