Systems > Goals

“Winners and losers have the same goals.” – James Clear

When you focus on goals and measures, you watch the scoreboard, not the game.

The game is the systems (or processes), and when you focus on the system, the results take care of themselves. The results are never the problem; they are the symptom. You will keep chasing the same outcomes if you do not change the system behind it.

Setting goals gives direction, but they do not help us progress. On the contrary, focusing on goals alone sometimes leads to dysfunctional behaviors. This is because the results are never the problem. They are the symptom of the system at play.

Under honest circumstances, when you lag behind your goal, you will summon up your willpower and work harder to achieve your goal. Your team may work overtime to meet velocity expectations, or you may walk to “get my steps in.”

Is there a better way? – Yes, work smarter, not harder.

Learn to ‘see’ the system, and you will unlock newer pathways to success that cannot be foreseen when you create a plan to achieve the goal.

In one of my past agile teams, we had regular walk-and-talk sessions that came to replace boring meetings. As a team, we would walk through the woods behind our office building and discuss life, products, technologies, practices, etc. We got our steps in, improved our team interactions, and developed products that our customers loved.

In his excellent book Atomic Habits, James Clear shares that a tiny 1% improvement contributes to significant gains over time.


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