Being Or Doing – Should the Entrepreneur Rely on Goal Setting?

Goal Setting

In business, we are used to operating in the ‘doing’ mode. It is all about achievement. Sometimes, though we might be better off to come out of the ‘being’ mode, coming from our inner values.

In the traditional model, what we do is to make some kind of assessment of the situation, then we ‘do’ and hopefully, ‘achieve’ and we follow that up by measuring the result.

This axis of Assessment->DOING->ACHIEVING->Measurement represents the ‘given wisdom’ about business performance encapsulated in the phrase, “what gets measured gets done”.

A more reflective approach to business involves keeping an open mind, knowing where we stand, living into the situation and thus remaining open to possibility.

This alternative axis of Inquiry->BEING->BECOMING->Possibility represents a view of management based on emergence, arising from systems thinking.

While in your business either style may predominate, they are not mutually exclusive. I would like to suggest that the successful entrepreneur is able to blend the two, with a slight leaning towards the being->becoming axis.

Systems organize themselves

If you know anything about the new science of chaos theory, you will know about the tendency of systems to organize themselves. Management practice during most of my lifetime, on the other hand, has been based on the idea that we can manage outcomes.

Long Range Planning was high fashion in major corporations about 25 years ago. So was Operational Research, an interdisciplinary branch of applied mathematics and formal science that uses methods such as mathematical modeling, statistics, and algorithms for solutions to complex problems.

Both are less sexy these days, as we appreciate our weakness in forecasting over long periods or where complex problems are concerned. These days we know more and appreciate the ways that the interdependent development of people and organizations are far more likely to produce useful and meaningful results than reliance on abstract numbers in models of reality.

Pathfinders in the field are Peter Senge and the now large numbers of people clustered around the Society for Organizational Learning. There are others, as well as many, perhaps like you who operate that way quite naturally, acting out of high self-awareness and sensitivity to others.

Trusting ourselves amid change

The problem is one of trusting that without all those tightly defined goals we are going to get where we want to go. There has always been an illusion about the extent to which business goal setting enables us to achieve results. The problem is that things never quite work out as planned. Everything has a habit of changing. And messing up our plans.

I am not suggesting that we abandon all attempts to objectify, but that we temper them with subjectivity and avoid being disappointed by the world around us when it does not perform to our expectation. When you are starting a business, there are a huge number of unknowns. Your assumptions are highly likely to be wrong and once sales start materializing many of your goals will need to be revised in the light of what your learn from customers.

If we learn to believe that our deep felt values will guide outcomes as we take action, then we are staying with the known, rather than relying solely on the unknowable.

The entrepreneur and gut feel

In my entrepreneurial life, I too often behaved in what I thought was the right way, rather than following my convictions. On the other hand before my first venture, many people with whom I shared my business ideas were highly skeptical. Their comments, while being very instructive, generally served to reinforce my gut feel about what would work.

Gut feel is difficult to define, but interestingly more and more research is leading to seeing that body and mind are both important to human decision making.

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