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Transforming Talent Insights - Issue #57: Let's DUMB It UP: Desire, Unraveling, Messy, Balance

Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant)
Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant)
1st Winner of the A-Maze 2022 #TransformationPassport Challenge “Can Transformation Be Meme-able?” is…
“There is no need to be SMART all the time - it is OK to be DUMB”, summarized A-Maze 2022 Bosun Anne-Cécile Graber in our session “Setting Sail on your A-MAZE 2022 Journey”.
And by DUMB, we mean
  • Desire: ergo it is something that you really want to happen in terms of an end-in-mind, broader purpose and/ or towards a meaningful WHY
  • Unraveling: emerging and evolving as important aspects are uncovered and come to light
  • Messy: learning happens in the wobble - it is imperfect and challenges you, so therefore in order to learn, you gotta accept that it is going to be a bit messy and at times the furthest thing from a straight line.
  • Balance: how do we stay on an even kilter as much as we can? This points back to the juxtaposition that is #vitalityviabilityvulnerability as we ask ourselves “what are we busy about?”
So let’s dive into a bit about why it is better to DUMB it up.

Can Transformation be Meme-able? Yes! The winner from Setting Sail on your A-Maze Journey by Anne-Cécile Graber
Can Transformation be Meme-able? Yes! The winner from Setting Sail on your A-Maze Journey by Anne-Cécile Graber
Take a DUMB Approach
If we have learned anything over the past two years of the pandemic, is that the command-and-control, Supply Chain approach for obtaining our goals is a input-output black-box pipe dream.
Despite this, for years, the most popular method of goal-setting SMART method of Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Timebound, has been the stale chewing gum that folks seem to still keep on chewing, despite having already lost its flavor around 1981, when it was conceived by George Doran. Doran designed the model based on the 60’s by work psychologist Edwin Locke around goal-setting theory, as a way to focus in on intention, motivation, and commitment.
The SMART method is snappy, memorable, and marketable - but it is also a significant blinder to actually attaining meaningful and transformative goals.
Why is SMART, not so smart?
SMART sets up blinders to convicting or emerging information because the focus is narrowed before the work gets started.
Let’s take the Specific - if you are narrowing the goal completely from the get-go, what happens if you are going down a path, that is not connected to a strategy, is anything anyone cares about or needs, or it runs counter to other goals from your team members or customers? This is similar to what Stephen Covey said about ladders:
“It’s incredible easy to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success, only to discover that it’s leaning against the wrong wall. If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster. – Stephen Covey
Moving on to Measurable, which is based in the "what gets measured gets done” philosophy. The challenge here is: who determines if the indicators are measuring meaningful impact? A few simple HR examples: Full-Time Equivalent, number of applicants, training hours, absenteeism. These measures actually detract from the purpose behind what one is actually trying to achieve. Moreover, often measures or KPI’s are chosen on a quantity instead of quality basis, or because “we have always measured that way”. This may cause one to ignore other important and more relevant datapoints.
Assignable - is only one person responsible for obtaining a goal? Extremely rarely.
Realistic? In a 2021 study by Intelligence IQ, it was found that most didn’t feel like their goals will help them achieve great things, with 53% choosing realistic and achievable goals rather than difficult goals or audacious goals. Reminding me of the Scott Galloway quote:
Paradoxical messages in goal setting... Case L2 Inc
Paradoxical messages in goal setting... Case L2 Inc
Meaning we are rewarding the performance of our folks by reinforcing to them they should not take risks, nor go into the brave zone of learning. This is counter to what we are needing folks to do in times of transformation.
And don’t even get me started on Time-bound - as the most audacious and meaningful goals are not ALL going to be finished on December 31st. (Shocking no one really…)
So therefore, in my not-so-humble opinion, there is nothing about this beyond VUCA World, where we can convince ourselves that a mechanical input approach like setting SMART goals will result in the output we intend.
Instead, by choosing to be DUMB, we keep a keen eye out for what is unraveling. By taking a DUMB approach, we set our sights on what is truly impactful and important to obtain our broader purpose, our true end in mind, our Why.
So we on this #amaze2022 journey, encourage you to take a DUMB approach!
Arguments for playing DUMB
Eddie Obeng: Smart failure for a fast-changing world | TED Talk
Are SMART Goals Dumb? (Shocking New Goal-Setting Research)
Minimum Viable Transformation: Change should be Small and Imperfect – What's the PONT
TTI Setting Sail: What are Your A-Maze DUMB Goals ?
Setting Sail on YOUR A-Maze Journey: What are your DUMB Goals
Setting Sail on YOUR A-Maze Journey: What are your DUMB Goals
A-Maze 2022: Port of Call Barriers to Transformation
As you know, the work of Transforming Talent is not about hacks, it is about creating the A-Ha’s that spark the desire for actual change - rather than just talking about making a change.
Like a maze, Transforming Talent in organizations, teams, and for individuals is filled with twists, turns, insights, backtracking, and forging new paths. In a #DoItToLearnIt format, your favorite Chief Talent Navigator, Elizabeth Lembke, invites you to the next port of call on the A-MAZE 2022 Journey which is Barriers to Transformation with the marvelous Magic Mike Hruska, CFO at Allen Interactions, Innovation Coach, and Magician. To get tickets, head on over to Eventbrite and, to get a taste of what awaits you, watch:
Thank you!
A huge thank you to Anne-Cécile Graber for the a-mazing first #memeabletransformation and to all of you who are taking part in this A-Maze-ing journey together with us!
Should you like to dive into how a #transformationpassport could be helpful to you and your team, happy to jump on a call.
Wishing you happy sailing!
All of my best regards,
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Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant)
Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant) @elizabethlembke

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Elizabeth Lembke, Transforming Talent Consulting: and