Input & Output Goals

Oct 22, 2015

      “Goal-oriented” is one of the tired platitudes you’ll see on many LinkedIn profiles, resumes and even job descriptions, making recruiters and prospects alike suffer through hundreds of job descriptions that are apparently just looking for people with a pulse. While this should be intuitive for everyone entering the workforce, goals go much deeper than just checking items off a list or planning to get from point A to point B. Sure, many objectives can be that straightforward, but achieving excellent results? That comes from a measure of teamwork and how those goals are broken down.

Parts of a Team

      Individuals don’t make an organization great, teams do. And when teams are formed to overcome hurdles and complete tasks, there’s a lot that comes into play even before goals are set. Because of this collection of interests, skills and contributions, each member must have a sense of buy-in, meaning they believe that the team will be successful. Thinking about this introspectively, do you have buy-in to your company? Do you hold the beliefs of success that your organization outlines?

      A lot of these might line up with our own ideals in life, like “respect others” and “good effort produces good results.” But digging deeper, we’ve aligned ourselves to ideals that may or may not fully embody those we create and hold ourselves. There may be multiple reasons for this, but chief among them is teamwork: people coming together from different backgrounds and skills to unite under a cause. With these causes come effort towards an end result, or a goal.

      Many teams function well as a united effort, but the most effective teams employ leaders to embody vision and drive to achieve their goals. Leading a team towards your objective comes with the understanding of your team and their needs. Aside from understanding their buy-in, observing the way they communicate, work, relax and other activities will give you an understanding of how they perform best. Don’t assume uniform roles for everyone; that can stifle creativity from your artists and innovation from your thinkers.

      As a very loose example, some developers may enjoy vertical screens for coding and writers may prefer a comfortable couch on which to craft perfect copy; don’t make developers write in a moleskine and don’t make writers type their paragraphs in Mercurial. Understanding their drive and what makes them individually successful sets you up for breaking down objectives into input goals and output goals.

Input & Output

      Once you’ve gathered a group to confer on a common cause, planning goals comes with expectations of an end result. But how is the end result achieved? It’s easy to aspire to a large goal, say “run a half marathon” or “increase Q4 sales by 5%” but the implication of a straight shot to success is already doomed. Setting input goals, or goals which you can control by inputting effort and strategy, build the steps to success. Showing up on race day without preparation or research will result in cramping about two minutes in and thoughts of “I should have planned this better” starting to creep in. While this plan is doomed from the start, this is still a realistic goal to achieve if it’s broken down correctly.

      A lot of this seems obvious to you, dear reader, as you’ve been intuitively creating input goals for your projects. We all do this every day! While it’s something that can be innate for leaders and great team members, paying attention to smaller guidelines and expectations is what drives your team to success. Let’s keep running with this marathon idea:

Output goal: I want to complete a half marathon.

Great! This is an achievable goal, but how are you going to get there? Without input goals, you can not accurately control or monitor the outcome.

Input goal: In order to complete a half marathon, I will train four days a week.

Even better! We’re halfway there, given the understanding of training to break down the output goal.

Input goal: In order to run 13.1 miles, I will train four days a week running two miles each day.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Research the requirements of the goal, analyze current capabilities and plan to grow in a trajectory that will meet or exceed the goal. You’re beginning to have control over your objectives.

Input goal: I will train five days per week for the next ten weeks, increasing my distance by 2% each session. If I start at 6.5 miles per day, the increase will bring me to meet performance on race day.

The runners out there may notice that this may be a fantasy way to train, but bear with me. Let’s use a more pertinent example to drive it home. Remember how teams contribute a variety to skills to your goals?

Output goal: We want to launch a new update that will help our users better organize their team permissions.

Great. But what are the components, or inputs, that go into making that goal a reality?

Input goal: By implementing fixes to the UI and adding functionality to the security, our developers can ship an update allowing users to categorize their employees to ensure safety in information and duplicate production.

This is the direction in which we want to head. Utilize your developer’s talents and draw from their experience and input. Once the update is pushed out, you can then analyze its draw and effects through media and analytics. Sound familiar yet?

      What we’re discussing happens every day in every workplace, and some of you may be thinking “Eric, what’s the point if I just do this naturally in my head?” The point is, dear reader, that metacognition (thinking about thinking) is what drives the most successful businesses out there. It’s no longer enough to say, “We want to increase Q4 sales by 5%, so we’re going to increase media campaigns to market our product.” Our sector is so incredibly nuanced in its production and communication that it’s not enough to make a blanket statement and expect it to happen.

      Thanks to these input goals, your team will go on to develop a plan to increase media marketing through its talents of writers, designers, strategists and others - all working in their optimal space. This, I think, is why startup culture has exploded as much as it has. A small group of people working under the same banner, ensuring communication and effective working.

      The battle cry of “work hard, play hard” is almost as tired as “goal-oriented,” but it’s indicative of the culture’s focus on creating a comfortable and productive atmosphere for its employees. Drawing the best attributes from your team means giving them a place and idea to buy into, instilling in that team a drive that becomes a personal quest. And when happy and supported workers create and use input goals, the output of that team produces outstanding results.