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Fuzzy goals | by dgray_xplane
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Fuzzy goals

In industrial work, we want to manage work for consistent, repeatable, predictable results. So industrial goals are best when they are specific and quantifiable.


But in knowledge work we need to manage for creativity -- in effect, we don't want predictability so much as breakthrough ideas, which are inherently unpredictable. For knowledge work we need our goals to be fuzzy.


A fuzzy goal straddles the space between two contradictory criteria: At one end of the spectrum is the clear, specific, quantifiable goal, such as 1,000 units or $1,000. At the other end is the goal that is so vague as to be, in practice, impossible to achieve; for example, peace on earth or a theory of everything. While these kinds of goals may be noble, and even theoretically achievable, they lack sufficient definition to focus the creative activity.

What is the optimal level of fuzziness? To define a fuzzy goal you need a certain amount of ESP: Fuzzy goals are Emotional, Sensory and Progressive.


Emotional: Fuzzy goals need to be aligned with people’s passion and energy for achieving them. It’s this passion and energy that gives creative projects their momentum, therefore fuzzy goals must have a compelling emotional component.


Sensory: The more tangible you can make a goal, the easier it is to share it with others. Sketches and crude physical models help to bring form to ideas that might otherwise be too vague to grasp. You may be able to visualize the goal itself, or you may be able to visualize an effect of the goal, such as a customer experience. Either way, before a goal can be shared it needs to be made explicit in some way.


Progressive: Fuzzy goals are not static; they change over time. This is because, when you begin to move toward a fuzzy goal, you don’t know what you don’t know. The process of moving toward the goal is also a learning process, sometimes called successive approximation. Fuzzy goals must be adjusted based on what you learn as you go.


I would appreciate your comments.


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Taken on October 7, 2009