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Process goals and outcome goals

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Process goals and outcome goals

Scott Miker

I have talked quite a bit about process goals versus outcome goals in my articles.  I passionately believe that setting outcome goals is too broad.  It is the lazy way to set a goal.

It says that we have an idea of what we dream about achieving so we make-up the specifics around it so we have a goal.  Then we assume we just have to use more effort to reach the goal.

But this is flawed.  It is flawed because it skips over the most important aspect, which is the how component.  How are you going to reach that goal?  How are you going to change in order to achieve different/elevated results?

For me I’d rather see my employees talking about things that they are going to change than on what they hope to achieve after they change.  That allows us to see why they believe that ultimate outcome is possible. 

But we don’t do this naturally.  Most people just set some goal that they hope to achieve and then wait and see if it happens. 

In Secrets of Influential People by Steven Pearce, he says it is important to “look at process, not outcomes.”

He goes on to say, “Getting the feedback is the first stage, but it needs to be feedback about the right things.  Sports coaches often talk about looking at the process rather than the outcomes: the fact that you did or did not score a goal is only of fleeting interest to the coach.  Much more relevant is how the goal is scored – whether the process can be broken down into constituent actions that can each be individually analyzed, practiced and potentially repeated in a live match.”

This is really important for self-improvement.  If we only look at the outcome, we may miss when luck played a huge role or when we did everything right and just ran into an anomaly that caused us to miss our outcome goal. 

Focusing on the process gives us clear insight into how to improve by focusing on the areas that we repeat.  It allows us to drastically improve our sales numbers by changing the sales strategies we are using.  It allows us to improve efficiencies at work by finding small changes in the procedures.  It allows us to improve personally by focusing on our habits and routines throughout our day. 

By shifting our focus from being on the process instead of the outcome, we give ourselves a better shot at improving.  We can slowly see increased outcomes but have the insight into how we achieved those results rather than just hoping it all happens again. 

This is a key point to the systems and habits approach to improvement because we have to keep making small adjustments in order to create drastic improvement.  By doing this over and over and constantly evaluating and improving the processes, routines, habits, systems, etc. in our life, we start to gain control of the direction we are headed.  It doesn’t mean that this results in scoring a goal 100% of the time, it simply increases the odds of scoring to make it more likely than not that we will score when we follow the right steps leading up to that shot.