Goal-orientation is turning obsolete

“The new airport will be completed by the end of next year.”

“Our mission is to have 250 million active users by the end of this year”

“This certificate will be awarded on scoring at least 60% in the final examination.”

We live in a goal oriented world. We are expected to deliver well defined end products and our roles, schedules and incentives are all organized around this output-centric view. This pertains equally to our personal lives.

Goal orientation has its limitations. Behavioural science tells us that our initial plans and estimates are rigid and overly optimistic. We can only picture the best-case scenarios in every situation. With unforeseen consequences, come several negative consequences – last-minute pressure, crashing schedules and quality compromises. Besides, in a fast changing world, rigid long-term planning is always a risk.

Enter process orientation. Process orientation is focused less on overarching goals, and more on rituals and routines that ensure ongoing course correction. It trades rigid determinism for alertness and flexibility. It is input-centric, and fosters consistency and discipline. It proceeds from a belief that doing the right things everyday, automatically leads us to desirable ends.  The pace of change today is set by the high-tech industry,  which has already deemed the goal oriented waterfall development methodology obsolete. Process oriented agile methods have all but uprooted them.

This fact is just as relevant to our personal lives. While the quintessential interview question has been, “where do you see yourself in five years”, one that is more pertinent today is, “can you mention one regular practice that has helped you build your professional capabilities?”

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