As we begin a new year, it becomes a time of resolutions and goals for ourselves and our practices. Goal setting is a powerful exercise in strategic planning and an effective method to boost the team efforts in productivity and growth. The challenge with goal setting is seeing those goals come to fruition. Just like the gyms are full on January 2nd with exercise enthusiasts set on the goal to improve their fitness, by February 1st, the number of committed individuals has dwindled dramatically. Such is the case in many areas of life, including business and orthodontic practice.
The effort to improve your practice’s productivity and growth relies on a series of goal setting strategies that look at both the short-term and long-term vision. The goals require more than just a meeting and a series of promises. Most experts advise the first step in goal setting is to have written goals. The second is sharing those goals so others hold you accountable to those goals. To keep ideas moving into action, it takes having a large ambition of what you want to achieve, and then follow through with a series of steps to make that big goal achievable. This is what turns that goal into a reality. The tools that I intend to review are concepts of setting SMART goals and incorporating them in a stretch goal that aims to reach your large ambition.
Setting SMART goals are about having a clear set of objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and based on a timeline. This technique was developed in the 1970’s by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, university psychologists who looked for the best ways to set goals. By 2006, they had more than 400 studies on increasing productivity and a review on who were able to achieve faster and better results. The common thread being that specific, high goals raised performance more than easy or vague, abstract goals.
SMART goals are about getting things done better and faster. The challenge is that SMART goals can easily focus on the short-term. Short-term goals and short-term achievements can keep an organization from growing no matter how productive you become, productivity does not always lead to growth. Long-term goals are also important to grow as an individual and as an organization.
Don’t sell yourself or your team short. Reaching new heights take a stretch goal. Dream big and stretch. These are the goals that truly change an organization. While SMART goals help us achieve tasks, tasks should lead to somewhere. This is where laying out a vision of what you want to achieve becomes important. And that vision should require reach.
Stretch goals are not right for every occasion, but often they are well utilized in thriving but complacent organizations. Complacency is often our problem as our practices grow past the survival stage in the early years of practice and I see many orthodontists frustrated as they plateau in the growth and change that drove them into this profession. Setting a stretch goal also motivates those who work for us to see a growing and vibrant team who is driven by continuing improvement. Stretch goals are jolting events that interrupt complacency.
If your practice is not where you want it to be, what’s your big goal? Setting a target that requires extra effort to achieve often becomes the driver to the most exciting change. Maybe it is to grow to a larger organization. Maybe you have a production goal or a goal in net income. Maybe it is a lifestyle goal where your practice is the engine to freedom and time with family. These big picture goals are the vision that can be supported by action steps. It has been said: Vision without action is but a dream.
In short, we need stretch and SMART goals. It doesn’t matter if you call them by those names. It’s not important if your proximal goals fulfill every SMART criterion. What matters is having a large ambition and a system for figuring out how to make it into a concrete and realistic plan. Then, as you check the little things off your to-do list, you’ll move ever closer to what really matters. You’ll keep your eyes on what’s both wise and SMART.” Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better
Consider as you begin your 2018, where do you want to be by this time next year? What about in five, or ten years? Implementing a process for doing things better often starts with a goal. So be smart and stretch.