When people get first together as a group or network there’s so much potential for developments, collaborative working and more. It’s also easy for groups to quickly dissipate if they’re not achieving anything.
The time honored practice of goal setting can be a straight forward, practical solution to preventing group burnout. Let’s explore how to set goals for a group or network to ensure it stays focused and effective.
Create a Purpose and Vision
One of the first things a group or network should do is articulate a clear reason for being. This not only brings clarity to the group but also establishes what it’s responsible for and what is out of scope. By setting down clear terms of reference, people engaging with the group will gain an understanding of what outputs to expect. It’s important to take the time and trouble to gain consensus on that purpose and that any goals set are ‘SMART’. This means they are Simple and Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Agreed, Relevant, and Time limited. MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), for example, is a small community group with a goal of changing the laws around drunk driving.
Define the Goals
Set clear goals that you believe will achieve your purpose. Start by brainstorming and throw around as many ideas as possible — nothing’s off the limits. Then start narrowing down to the goals that are (you guessed it) SMART.
You can begin by writing down issues that need to be resolved, projects that need starting, etc. You should end up with many conversations and a long list of things to do. Try using Post-It notes with one idea on each note. Post-Its are great, as you can move them around quickly and easily. (Fun fact: a lot of apps you use today started out as a bunch of Post-It notes!) Check the ideas for whether they are SMART and practical for the group, itself. Detroit Soup is a community initiative that uses prioritization and one that started out small but has enabled many things to happen.
Take the long list and divide it further into (i) essentials, (ii) quick wins, and (iii) long-term projects. Some may overlap. One way to narrow the list down is to give everyone three votes — one for each section. (But you can also work for consensus or look for other group decision-making processes that appeal to you and your members.) You can also use social media to get opinion on issues and generate ideas by having virtual polls, publicizing ideas, and asking for feedback. Online tools can allow for anonymous voting by the group.
The highest scoring goals will be first to go after. The others can be done later. It’s important to focus on just a couple of items at first because too many projects will overwhelm the group. If the highest scoring goal is a big one, break it down into smaller tasks and goals that can each be completed on a shorter timeline.
Keep Momentum and Make it Happen
Once you have your goals it’s important to keep things moving. Give people responsibilities and deadlines. You may need to set up a small project group to focus on one area.
As soon as that first quick win is achieved, start the next project to harness the momentum and so people see things are happening. This can be particularly important with longer-term projects. A quick win will demonstrate success and boost motivation. It may encourage others to get involved which is a powerful ingredient for keeping a group going.
Meanwhile, hang on to that long list of ideas. Sometimes grants become available for communities so it’s always worth having those ideas on hand to see if they match to the funding criteria.
It’s important to review goals, achievements, and long lists regularly. A new priority area may emerge which needs to be considered by the group. Successes need to be celebrated and shared with the wider community. Lessons learned through achieving goals and working together should be explored and articulated so that everyone can leverage those learnings when working on the next goal.
Big goals, little goals and assigned tasks intended to meet those goals — those are the basic ingredients to serve up results for just about any human endeavor. By having defining goals up front, your group or network will be able to focus and get a lot done.
Main image: Jopwell Collection