ARMED Goals Refined

Last month’s post about ARMED goals seemed to hit upon some nerves…which is a good thing!  It’s only when “disruption” occurs that learning can take place. For the last 60 years, psychologists have extensively researched the theory of “Cognitive Dissonance,” which is the discomfort experienced when the mind has to simultaneously hold two or more conflicting ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions. Learning, the goal of education, only occurs when the mindset of the student is somewhat changed after the educational experience has occurred. If nothing in the mind changes, learning has not occurred. If the student has not been “challenged” – that is, his/her current mindset of ideas, beliefs, values or emotions have not been tested – then there is no opportunity to either explore new possibilities or have one’s current mindset reinforced. Either way, if the educational experience has been successful, a change in mindset has occurred.

Cognitive Dissonance shows why psychology, sociology and education are so tightly interwoven. The failure to realize this grouping of three areas of study is actually what’s at the root of much of our problems in education today. Note the recent insurgence in brain research in education, and the effects of technology’s de-socializing the classroom learning. But that’s another topic for another day.

Interestingly, in the past few years, the same “trinitarian” relationship can been as the underpinnings of the sales experience. The sales professional needs to know the customer’s mindset, create the social environment, and educate the customer in the same manner as a teacher, challenging current ways of thinking, and either causing the customer to explore new possibilities to create the opportunity to buy, or to reinforce their current experience as a customer. Again, more about this on another day.

But learning is a dynamic. The qualities of the ARMED goal posited last week – namely, that a goal must be attainable, realistic, measurable, expedient and defined – may not be the best description. One reader pointed out that these words were merely synonyms for the qualities attributed to SMART goals, and, if SMART goals don’t work, then ARMED goals need to be stated differently.  That’s certainly a challenge…so here’s a bit of refinement:

ARMED goals are: Accountable, Relevant, Measurable, Emergent and Defined.

Accountable: A mindset of responsibility is the underpinning of every ARMED goal. Commitment is paramount, but taking responsibility means finding proper ways to deal with or avoid the obstacles, rather than blaming the obstacles. Realistically, there may indeed be obstacles that are the reason for an unattained goal; but these are now ARMED goals, because DREAM goals (as they used to be called) may not necessarily be realistic. Also notice that when one sets out to achieve a goal, a timeline has been placed upon it.  While a SMART goal is attainable and expedient, you may not be ready to reach it.  ARMED means “prepared,” and you need to be properly prepared to attempt to attain the goal.  Realizing that it’s all not within our hands eliminates the expectation of expedience as well.  Unfortunately, a financial or school board will still expect an advancement or development director to bring in huge sums of revenue within their first year of employment, but that’s not realistic since it takes a good three to five years to initiate, engage, cultivate and harvest the fruit of their efforts.  After all, how many people on a school board have ever had true experience as an advancement professional for a successful non-profit organization?  Being accountable means one knows what needs to be done, and is working toward it.

Relevant: Goals must relate to something, as nothing operates in a vacuum, and there’s always a purpose. As a personal goal, I can strive to exercise for 20 minutes every other day, but it must be connected to something else within the greater scope of things. Whereas a SMART goal can be isolated, there is no isolation for the systemic mindset necessary to achieve ARMED goals.

Measurable: Goals need to be measurable so that the process of “Checking and Adjusting” can take place. Evaluation is necessary so that direction can be modified, approach can be corrected, and strategy can be adjusted to eventually achieve the desired vision.

Emergent: Just as relevance leads to something, emergence comes from something, and acknowledges that a goal is created because of a desire to move away from current practices or mindsets. The progression toward something is equivalent to moving away from something else. If you want to give up a negative habit, it helps to replace it with a positive habit. Emergent goals come from being engaged with the experience.

Defined: They must be defined. The clearer the vision can be presented, the more attainable it becomes. A Vision Statement is merely a peek at where the organization wishes to go. A Vision Narrative portrays a clearer picture. Since we may not have a well-defined picture of the vision, then a thousand words is worth a picture…and a thousand words is probably just a good start to a well-articulated vision.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2012-2017