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18 Oct

How to set goals for ambiguous areas of responsibility


Date: 2017-10-18 07:38 Comments: 0 st

Setting goals when our work involves producing or selling something is fairly easy. We complete a certain number of units during the time period or sell for a particular figure, and know with certainty when we have reached our goal.

But, when we are responsible for things such as leading, managing, or supporting it is not as easy to measure our progress and not as obvious what our goals should be.

A goal just for you
If we are leading a group (or a team, a unit or a business), the primary objective and aim of the group will be ours as well. But, in addition to this, it is useful to set goals that measure if we are successful in contributing to the whole; a goal that is so specific that it becomes easy to discern if a task we are considering doing contributes to our attainment of the goal or not. We want to keep the goals specific and relevant so that we can use them in setting our daily priorities and not just prioritize by urgency.

How do we for instance measure ”support”? How do we know if we have supported our colleagues to the extent they expect us to? How many ”units of support” have we successfully delivered or produced?

The ”doing” is the key
In addition to asking the colleagues we provide with support how they are experiencing our efforts of doing so, we can also look beyond the verb ”support” in order to get a clue as to what our goal might be. What do we do when we provide support? 


One of my clients was supporting a group by participating in the group’s meetings - not always, but once in a while. The goal could then be to participate in at least one such meeting per quarter.

Do this
If you are responsible for something ambiguous and abstract, and find it difficult to crystalize goals with regards to your responsibilities, then do this:

  1. Ask yourself how you do what you are expected to do. And what do you do in order to consider yourself having accomplished the task?

  2. Express what you thought of above as something measurable:
    • a specific number of units of something
    • at a certain regular interval
    • a set time-frame
    • a certain quality
    • a particular value

  3. Let your goal contain the values you just defined that will indicate when you have fulfilled your responsibilities.

Making it easy to measure, makes it easy to prioritize
If you set measurable goals for all your areas of responsibility, even those that are more ambiguous than others, you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment more often since it will be clear to you when you have reached your goal. When your goals are specific, you will clearly see which tasks contribute to the goal-attainment, and you will be able to prioritize based on importance rather than urgency.

What’s your way?
What goals have you specified from the more unclear and less tangible aspects of your work? Write a comment and share your method. 

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