In the late twentieth century the concept of being ‘goal oriented’ took on greater and greater levels of cultural endorsement, eventually being elevated to a must have descriptor on many CV’s. If goals are not subordinate to and genuinely guided by real values however, the result can often be either an increasingly narrow and technocratic approach, or worse yet, the ‘at-any-cost’ approach which is ultimately counter-productive. Values here form critical check points against which goals may be re-evaluated to assess the broader implications of their continued pursuit. Values, although perceived as softer by industrialised management strategists allow for courses to be charted through the new and changing territories of dynamic environmental systems, whether they be economic, social or ecological. To highlight the differences entailed in a shift from goal-oriented to value-guided we can examine the common business axiom of SMART goals:
SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-related
Whilst the above is very useful for the constantly shifting lower order tasks that mature initiatives set in the pursuit of value informed goals, the complete absence of a check point that ensures congruence with the vision and mission of the initiative is potentially disastrous. Smart goals here have the potential to become mindless, bureaucratic rationalisations that result in foolish, not-so-smart mistakes. A more appropriate acronym for top level guidance would be:
WISE: Wide, Inspiring, Systemic, Ethics-based
The appropriate use of both SMART tasks and WISE Goals ensures an integration between the bureaucratic need for efficiency, accountability and monitoring, and the equally real need for management to have models that assist in traversing the non-linear and complex topographies of the real world. Furthermore, Wise goals also meet the human need for an engaging and meaningful climate and culture, thus transforming tasks from the mere cutting of stone to the greater purpose of building a cathedral.
Viewed from this perspective a values-centric approach creates the pole star by which organisations and individuals can navigate through the complex environments of business and social innovation.