Lesson on Goal Setting

Allow some 'goal-free' thinking time!

Lesson on Goal Setting

Allow some 'goal-free' thinking time!

Want a counter-intuitive lesson on goal setting? How about: not setting goals! Well, perhaps allowing goal-free time, to be more precise.

Most advice on goal setting or time management in the workplace implies the need for order, structure and regimentation. It’s important though, to ensure that you and your colleagues allow yourself time to think. In fact, one notable business success story indicates how sticking to just such a free-time policy has paid a world-famous dividend…

A Note-able Story

What if you and your staff could spend 15% of your time on projects of your own choosing, pursuing ideas you think could make a difference for your organisation? What kind of lesson on goal setting would that be? That’s exactly what U.S. corporation 3M have done to encourage creativity and to allow people with ideas to take a lead.

The 15 percent rule, as it has become known, has been the catalyst for some of 3M’s most famous products, such as Scotch tape and “notably” Post-it Notes.

But the “Post-it note” story is not just about giving people the time and the opportunity to follow their ideas. It’s also a lesson in perseverance and in realising success from failure.

Sticking but not remaining stuck!

Lesson on goal setting

Dr Spencer Silver

In 1968, 3M scientist Dr Spencer Silver discovered a formula for a glue which didn’t seem to work properly. It was sticky, but didn’t stick! Another failed experiment?

Possibly, if not for the predicament of a colleague.

Silver’s colleague Art Fry was experiencing a problem. A very frustrating problem. Whilst singing in the church choir his book marks kept falling out of the hymnal, causing him to lose his page. Fry needed a repositionable note, one which would stick, but would not remain stuck. Six years after Silver’s “failed” experiment, Fry remembered his colleague’s low-tack glue.

You may think the story ends here and that the rest is history, but connecting a problem to a possible solution was only the beginning. Using 3M’s 15% rule, it took Fry another three years to create a practical product. Post-it notes were first introduced in 1977, and were in mass production by 1980. Today, Post-it is a globally recognised brand, with around 600 products.

Making the Difference

This lesson on goal setting illustrates the importance of giving people time and resources to capitalise on their potential. How much creativity is lying dormant or stifled, for the want of encouragement?

Creating the space and providing the time for creativity is a crucial lesson on goal setting. Let others take a lead in taking the business forward.

This was a fundamental philosophy of William L. McKnight, credited with creating 3M’s corporate culture. His words are well worth quoting here:

“As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way. Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs. Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.”

  • What difference would it make to your organisation if you and your colleagues were allowed “bootleg” time?
  • What could you do with 15% of your time spent developing ideas or projects?

Some interesting questions, and an interesting lesson on goal setting.

Turning your lesson on goal setting into action!

SMART Goals, SHARP Goals e-guideYou can also find our more about the benefits of goal setting in our e-guide: SMART Goals, SHARP Goals to help you do just this. The guide contains 30 pages and 5 tools to help you to set SMART goals, then take SHARP action to achieve them.

It includes:
  • How do you define goal setting?
  • What features of goal setting are important, if we want to ensure they are more likely to be successfully achieved?
  • What kinds of goals are more likely to make us motivated to achieve them?
  • How do you set SMART goals?
  • Why do goals matter?
  • What kind of goals should you pursue to be happier in what you do?
  • How do you set team goals?
  • What strategies can you apply to overcome barriers to setting goals?
  • How do you develop SHARP plans of action that help you to achieve your goals?
  • What techniques can you use to get things done?
  • How do you set personal goals?

Tool 1: Conventional goal setting
Tool 2: Setting SMART goals that motivate
Tool 3: The kind of goals that will make you happier
Tool 4: Taking SHARP action
Tool 5: Team goals flowchart
Tool 6: Eight personal goal setting questions

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