A Strengths-Based Goal-Focused Operating System

A sustainable, intentional human system needs some enduring yet adapting and transforming core elements. Adapting, since the environment is continually changing; transforming, since a living system is always in dynamic equilibrium, either positively growing or decaying, both leading to transformations.

Here is a simple version that any successful operation can be seen to express in the myriad forms we encounter daily.

People come together for a purpose in a structured way to achieve a vision with some resources and processes that will create and destroy over time, producing world events that can be monitored and observed and drawn conclusions from to evaluate and adjust the whole and its parts.

Whether it’s an individual, a group, an organization, or a business unit, effective movement requires a vision that is known and understood by the constituents, accepted and used to align efforts and resources, as well as become a source of vitality and joy when approached and realized.

We look at the same picture yet see a different image; we hear the same words yet make different meanings. This makes the issue of clear, effective communication a necessary craft to be mastered by anyone who intends to lead, even lead in mediocre ways. The alignment of minds, hearts, and hands is rare. Sustained focus is very demanding, as you may have noticed.

Organizers are tools that can hold important things; a cup to hold the water and a cup to hold fire; we need different cups for different purposes. Advance organizers can help us learn new concepts and see relations, build on what reveals itself and fill in when absences arise.

Similarly, the strengths-based goal-focused life organizer will help you visualize your best possible future and guide you in building and using a map when you need one.

What is your vision of your best possible self? Who are you as a group, where are you going, and how will you get there?

How can you effectively convey your vision to your members and ensure everyone embraces it? How will you generate commitment; how will you sustain commitment?

Where there are people, there are differences in understanding. These differences create an abundant variety of human experiences. In an intentional community, commitment to a vision creates a common ground where differences can serve a unitary purpose. Metrics can become a simple language that is powerful enough to unite focus. Metrics require measurement that can be observed and verified by all. Putting metrics, measurement, and monitoring in our organizer, we get a scorecard that tells a story whenever we need one.

What have you said you would do; what have you done; what is the difference; what will you do next? Everyone can answer these questions easily and instantly with a scorecard at each level.

Metrics may tell a story, but it’s a simplified one, the meaning of which can only be understood through a greater narrative that tells of the greater deeds and struggles about how the metrics came by. World events flow. As part of the world and of world events, you also flow with it. This flow can be imagined as a forcefield. At a local level, today, in this place, there are countless actors with separate intentions and powers acting their will to an end, creating forces that make up this grand forcefield. By acting on your vision, you will encounter these local forces immediately as positive and negative attractors, contributors, allies, obstacles, hindrances, or indifferent events.

It is not always clear what is what and who is who. So a way of amplifying some issues and attenuating others needs to be devised, but based on what? What is essential and what is not? And how will you track these? How will you deal with these?

Execution with accountability will produce results. Execution requires action: knowing what to do by when and then doing it. Having standards of doing can help; standards of excellence, processes of evaluation, improvement, and intentional change.

Take action daily, review outputs and plan for actions weekly, solve and resolve issues promptly, evaluate progress and re-commit monthly, celebrate, define your milestones and commit every two or three months to your best future.

Now that you have a clear vision and written it down; you have communicated your vision properly and ensured it is shared by everyone, in head, heart, and hands;

You understand your values, where they come from, and why they are important; you base your decisions and actions on these values as you act out core processes;

These processes reflect your mission clearly and move you closer to your noble goal, day by day;

Your noble goal, ten-year vision, or whatever the label might be for your best possible future, is clear and bright, yet evolving as you grow positively into your future; it is communicated clearly and often, creating the focus and alignment when needed, and also the inspiration to aim high and the vigor to engage fully;

Your requisite organization creates the managerial leadership of the optimally complete kind;

Your rituals are operationally effective and produce results;

Monitoring links back to initiating change, execution links forward to accountability, everything is transparent, and learning and performance complement each other in the spiral of growth and achievement.

Celebrate whenever appropriate. Share wisdom and also share abundance whenever possible.

Immanuel Kant gave us the important questions, one of which was, “What can I hope for?”

Ask this question often, “What can I expect of you, my dear King or Queen? What can I expect of you, my Warrior? My Lover? My Teacher?”

Expectations should be clear and clearly communicated, from all to all, up, down, left, right, orthogonal, whatever that means.

What can I expect of you? What can you expect of me? What is our best possible future?

Accountability requires capability; authority requires responsibility.

I clearly and openly share my intentions and plans, I act on my plans, and I share the results. When I can’t act as I planned or get results not anticipated or to my liking, I share, communicate, inform, and ask for help and support. I am not afraid of falling because I know you will catch me if I do. And you can expect the same vigilance from me.

Track your outputs weekly, and course correct weekly. Your weekly timeframe or lens is the action-focused, output counting one. Concrete actions planned and executed; concrete outputs, aimed for and achieved.

Watch out; if you’re always on track, you might not be stretching beyond what you are presently capable of. If you don’t tend to your growth, you might be on the edge of withering.

Monitoring output and progress is for the purpose of taking effective, consistent action. Information used in the formation of actuality has use value; otherwise, it’s entertainment at most or a waste of resources in the extreme. Self-deception is a poor strategy for flourishing. Be wise. Measure what is meaningful, and then act on that meaning.

The Vision

Core values; Core focus; Noble goal (10-year target); Strategy to reach the noble goal; Intermediate-term milestones (3-year achievements, outcomes); One-year goal; Short-term milestones (3-months, quarterly, seasonal); Current action & implementation, issues arising

Requisite Organization

The search for “fit.”

We have a good enough argument and rationale to strive for a fit between employee talents, abilities, strengths, and interests and the role characteristics and responsibilities.

Organizing should follow strategizing. You organize for success in your mission. So, what would success look like in the next ten to 18 months? You have your one-year and three-year goals clarified; now, it’s time to get in shape to move with vigor and strength toward your goals.

It’s good to live in the now, but for purposeful living, you need to orient toward the future, your best possible future. This may require acquiring new capabilities or shedding frustrations and energy drains.

The two main aspects of individual thriving, vitality and growth, require a person-environment fit; this fit may be furthered by values congruence and alignment. This can be evaluated as a first approximation with a simple check-in: What are the espoused core values of the organization; what are the individual actions that are expected to realize those values; what are the observed actions? Can you devise a simple matrix to rate each member according to his or her adherence to the core values? Use simple ratings, such as the person exhibits the core value most of the time (+1); the person sometimes exhibits the core value and sometimes does not (+1/-1); the person does not exhibit the core value most of the time (-1).

Having a score is one thing; what to do with that score is another, and, of course, putting numbers on a sheet doesn’t make a subjective evaluation an objective fact, so critical judgment is in place when using such evaluations for hiring, promotion, or termination purposes.

Clarifying expectations, communicating expectations, ensuring understanding, devising a method for direct feedback and instant elaboration in ambiguous situations, and commitment to consistent implementation, follow-up, monitoring, evaluation, corrective actions, etc., are general steps to follow in performance management.

Implementing a values-oriented leadership focus: The periodic values check-up

You have your best possible future vision and noble goal; you are periodically, and once in a while, looking at your vision and adjusting yourself according to the current state of the world, environmental conditions, and happenings unfolding. As an initial step to bringing the vision and the values into the daily practice of the organization, a leadership team session to share observations on each other and each one might be useful; sharing how one is observing the values in action for each member, what one sees in their everyday behaviors, what needs affirmation and what needs attention. Then, as a leader, ask how you are doing, how you come across as you do this or that, where you strongly embody this value, and where you might miss the mark under what circumstances. Cascade this process up and down.

Your [Wellbeing & Performance] Dashboard

Now that you have a goal, milestones that add up toward achieving the goal, action plans to guide you on what to do when, some anticipation about obstacles and hindrances, and preparatory activities to overcome obstacles and challenges, it would make sense to have some metrics that will guide you in observing and evaluating progress.

It is wise to remember that “Since the observer has constructed the measuring device… what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning” (Heisenberg, 1958; Physics and Philosophy).

The metrics you devise, and thus let your attention follow, will influence what you may amplify or attenuate in importance in your evaluations. Timeframes of measurement can influence what results you seem to get. Activity-based numbers might tell a different story than output numbers. If there is such a thing, leading indicators can be more insight-generating than lagging ones. What reveals itself in numbers needs to be framed with a sense-making theory that explains the patterns and trends, if any, that can guide corrective or constructive action.

Metrics are numbers with units of measurement. What metrics do you need to get a fair understanding of the current state of your business? What numbers could you track weekly to have enough information to plan your weekly actions and evaluate your weekly outputs?

Prepare a scorecard: List your measurables, five to fifteen, that you could track weekly. Then, with one column listing the measurables, add a column of who is accountable for the output of that measure; add another column to define the goal for that measure over the next week, the expected output for the week ahead that will add up to your quarterly milestones. Finally, add fourteen more columns, one for each week for three months.

Decide who is accountable for collecting the numbers and fill in the scorecard. Make the scorecard current and available at the weekly progress meeting.

As the functional managers are accountable for outputs, so are they responsible for setting out the week’s goals.

The scorecard is a distilled version of the current performance. The business unit, its functions, departments, teams, and individual contributors can each have several vital indicators to orient their planning, action, and evaluation. Everyone contributes to the numbers in their daily actions. It is easy to commit to a number or not, as the case may be. It becomes easy to communicate one’s concerns, requirements for resources or support, etc.