5 reasons why better goal-setting help us be better Mayors and better citizens

5th May 2016

Andrea Darabos

Enterprise Lean Startup | Growth | Innovation | Agile Coach

Founder of Lean Advantage

Finally it’s 5th of May, the election day for the Mayor of London. The marketing campaigns and branding for mayors have been phenomenal. However, what will determine if any elected mayor will be able to significantly improve our London lives will be the ability of the elected parties to be masters at goal-setting and execution.

Why is goal-setting so crucial? Here are 5 reasons, why.

  • Ambitious long-term goals not only inspire citizens to vote, but have the side-effect to be able to mobilize the whole economy, including corporates, startup entrepreneurs, non-profits behind a higher cause.
  • Short-term, typically 3 months goals are the definition of the next, ambitious measurable milestone that we would like to achieve. These serve as a crucial way to focus our attention and resources to the next milestone only. The OKR (Objectives and Key Results) system developed by Intel and used by companies like Linkedin and Google gives us some guidance on how to define and structure these goals.
  • Experimental initiatives coupled with feedback loops help us rapidly prototype and explore citizen needs and interventions that work, whether these are new services or improvements to existing public services. Here, mayors and public sector authorities have studied and understood that cities and societies are complex adaptive systems and cannot be improved using predictive, linear project management methods. The Build-Measure-Learn cycle described by Eric Ries is best suited to understand, interact with and influcence cities and citizens.
  • Data analytics and machine learning are powerful tools to improve cities in the 21st century, however data without clear, structured long-term and short-term goals are useless. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of big data on citizens and economies without having the question to be answered or without a single metric to be influenced. High growth businesses – another form of complex adaptive systems – understand the power of OMTM (One Metric That Matters) to help them make sense of data, to understand their current condition baseline and to learn from past experiments.
  • Innovation and insights can originate not only from politicians and public services bodies but from all stakeholders including citizens involved in a city life. For this to work, however, goals and city data needs to be public, accessible and well communicated. What if we have borrowed the design sprint format for accelerated innovation by Google, IDEO and alike and applied it to focused, public service innovation hackathons? For this, a clear, inspiring long-term vision and short termchallenge statements  should be created to engage public dialogue, innovation and collaboration for a better city.

So, if you are not a politician but an ordinary Londoner or a citizen of another city – what can we do next?

We could download and try out the OKR goal-setting template to apply it to our own work and public initiatives. We could discuss it and share learnings with our colleagues, friends and families. And we could encourage methods like OKR, design sprints and lean startup to reach into the domain of city life and public services by every interaction we have.

Andrea is the Founder of Lean Advantage, a think tank and innovation mentoring group based in London. Her team runs trainings on effective goal-settings, OKRs and complex adaptive systems under management30.com. She is passionate about applying design sprints to city and social innovation. Find her on Twitter @adarabos.

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