Almost four years ago, I wrote a blog post about creating aim statements. You can read the post here. Developing aim statements is a key part of my work with teams. It helps answer the question: What are you trying to accomplish? Aim statements are not always easy to create and frequently the predicted amount of improvement is a guestimate. That said it should be ambitious.
The ambitious side of an improvement aim is a part that can be overlooked and may not get the attention that is placed on identifying what you will improve or in what population. The third feature of an aim statement is considering improving by how much? It involves including a number…often a percentage. In our coaching, we push people to pick a number that is possible, but also a stretch. Why do we do that?
To make breakthrough improvements, we are striving to change the underlying process or system so that it creates a new level of performance. Setting ambitious aims helps us to do that. First, it keeps people focused on their improvement work and active in their change testing because you cannot achieve an ambitious aim without effort. Second, ambitious aims should require us to change the processes we are using that are not producing the result. If the aim is not ambitious, we might be able to just tweak an existing process or pay attention more, but we don’t necessarily have to change and improve the process.
Consider weight loss. If you set an aim to loose 5 pounds in a month, I predict you can do it without fundamentally changing your eating and exercise routine. You might alter your quantities a bit or skip a dessert and you’ll get there. If you set a goal to loose 15 pounds in a month, that’s a different story. You are not going to loose that much weight through small tweaks. You would have to change several aspects of your behavior such as eating clean (unprocessed lean meats, veggies, and good fat), increasing exercise (CrossFit 3 days per week), and reducing wasted calories (e.g., beer). If you make changes like these for a month, you will definitely loose 5 pounds and have a good shot at your aim of 15. I also predict you will be watching your weight like a hawk and doing small tests of change every day as you strive for your goal.
There are several famous quotes that touch on the theme that we cannot get to a new level of performance or change using the same thinking or activities as before. In order to have a different result, we have to have a different approach. Setting ambitious aims helps us to do that. Next time you are developing an improvement project or working to enhance performance, take the time with your team to develop an ambitious aim and then track data over time that helps you assess your team’s progress towards achieving it. If at any point your data hits a plateau and improvement is not happening, ask yourself: What changes can I make to the process that I predict will shift our performance? Test a few and see what happens.
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Time 30 Min
Last day in the office before I do a stint on the road. This topic hit me over breakfast and was clear and concise making it quicker to type. I continue to find doing the writing to be a challenge to do every day and to do it efficiently. I am discovering that I am enjoying writing at the start of the day. It get’s my brain going, makes me feel a bit productive, I appreciate that I’ve shared a piece of my work with others, and forces me to think clearly about how to share an idea. We’ll see about tomorrow from Seattle.