Effort, Tactical, or Adaptive Goals

I recently finished digging into Primed to Perform. The book emphasizes tactics for building a motivated culture.

The authors lay out three factors that influence the total motivation of your organization—Play, Purpose, and Potential. I found one bit about framing goals particularly interesting. There are three potential options:

  1. Effort goal – This is the least effective. It’s akin to saying, “Try harder.” There’s no real direction.
  2. Tactical goal – This is a step in the right direction and the form you’ll most recognize. “Sign 20 new clients” is an example of a tactical goal. The desired outcome is clear.
  3. Adaptive goal – According to the authors, this is the most effective type because it focuses on helping team members become competent while providing space for autonomy and creativity. In this example, instead of “Sign 20 new clients,” you might say, “Find three new ways to describe how two of our products create value for our clients.”

Since I read this bit, I’ve been thinking about how I would set adaptive goals within our team at Automattic. Here’s one example that came to mind:

Tactical: Increase customer satisfaction scores to 95%.

Adaptive: Identify three ways a month to go above and beyond with a customer. Share those stories with the group.

The end result (happy customers) is still the same. The presentation and perspective are changed.

How I Set Goals and Avoid Overwhelm

A girl walking through a maze on a beach


That’s how I would describe my state of mind three to four months ago. I had some big audacious goals I wanted to achieve, but I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t figure out how to move closer to those goals or make any progress at all.

Sure, I would open my laptop every day and work. I wasn’t a total slug. At the same time though, I wasn’t working efficiently. I couldn’t tell you how the work I was doing would translate into the goals I wanted to achieve.

At the same time, I was overwhelmed. Having a lot to do but no clear plan to the finish line is a sure way to get me nervous.

I knew I had to turn something around.

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