If you want people to care you cannot be satisfied with dry, superficial goals.
You must dig deeper to uncover the juicy goals that actually drive people's decisions.
We meet a person who has a need. A client, colleague, partner, or anyone we care about.
We want to capture this need in a nicely wrapped, easy to manage package – like the closed pomegranate fruit below. Needs like "Develop a Shiny app", "Install RStudio", "Reduce overload."
But we cannot stop there.
The closed pomegranate is dry, has a hard skin and sharp edges.
What we need to do is to dig into the fruit to get at the juicy bits inside.
This is the stuff they really want.
What is the goal inside the goal? Why do they need that Shiny app? What's the real obstacle stopping them from installing RStudio themselves? If overloaded, what would they like their work to be like? It's probably not just "less stuff".
And yes, once we cut into the needs behind a goal it usually turns out the inside is complicated. It's full of people with varying priorities, organisational boundaries and maybe some seeds from the underworld we should not touch.
We can't let that stop us.
Without getting to the juicy bits people will just care less about what we're doing and we'll have a harder time getting them to enjoy the results, appreciate our help, help us or want to work with us in the future.
How to find juicy goals?
Dig deeper with clean questions
Turn attention from the problem towards the desired outcome with And when <something they said>, what would you like to have happen?
Understand more clearly without distorting their mental model (without paraphrasing with your words)
- What kind of X?
- Is there anything else about X?
- How will you know that X?
- And when X, what happens then?
- And when X, that's like what?
A useful focusing question:
- What is most important for you right now?
Consider other people
No person is an island. They are part of a rich network of connections and all the people around them have different perspectives, needs and priorities.
- Who else is impacted by this? Who else will benefit? Will there be people who will end up worse off (perhaps competitors, but also perhaps other people in the same org, sometimes users if we're e.g. cutting costs)?
- Who else is (or needs to be) involved? Decision makers with the power to derail the project? People who could help?
Make a map of the most important people and try to answer what might be most important for them. Validate your assumptions by asking them if possible, listening to what they have to say and observing what they actually do.
Impact mapping might be a useful tool here.
You are not done until someone's need was met
Once you understand what people really want, don't be satisfied with checking off tasks. We are not really done with our work until the need is met. Or the budget runs out :P Take care to ask for feedback, validate if whatever we delivered is truly useful and what might be the next best step.
Capture juicy goals as (user) stories
It's a complicated world and one sentence will probably not cover all the relevant details. But it's a start.
The concept of user stories has been heavily bastardised as Agile became the dominant approach, but the basic template asks all the right questions.
- Who is it for?
- What do they want?
- Why do they want it?
- As a <kind of person>,
- I want <feature, change, fix, etc.>
- so that <deeper, hopefully juicy, intention that makes the request worth spending time and money>.