50 by 50 – what I learned about goal setting

When I turned forty, I decided I wanted to visit all fifty States of America by the time I was fifty and at the end of last year, I achieved the goal when I touched down in Honolulu, twenty-seven days before I hit my half-century.

Reflecting on the experiences of the last ten years, I find I have learned some valuable lessons about goal-setting that are equally useful in a professional environment.

Here are my top seven tips.

  1. If you put a deadline on something, you are far more likely to achieve it – it’s human nature to respond to the challenge
  2. Enjoy the process of getting there – be mindful of how the journey feels and have fun getting there
  3. It’s easier to achieve a goal if you have support from those around you – find colleagues whose aspirations match yours who will help and support you along the way
  4. However challenging a goal is, you will find a way to make it happen if you really want it – the human brain is capable of amazing innovation if you give it the chance
  5. Know the difference between challenging and impossible – if you’re five foot one, setting a goal to be six foot will only work if you’re thirteen years old and still growing. Believe me, it doesn’t work if you’re over twenty-one
  6. Recognise whether your deadline is immovable or flexible but don’t make a deadline so flexible that it ceases to be a true deadline – my birthday was not going to change but slipping the deadline when I finish my next novel is possible (though it does upset my publisher)
  7. Achieving a goal is like stepping up onto the next rung of the ladder – it gives you a better view but you know there are more rungs if you want the vista to be even more spectacular

I urge you all to set goals with deadlines, both at home and at work. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve if you give yourself a challenge.

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Continual service improvement – the clue’s in the name

Many organisations struggle to implement effective continual service improvement (CSI). Many purport to deliver CSI but are paying lip-service to the principle and missing the point. The clue is in the name.


CSI is not a once a year workshop that creates an actions list that sits in a dark recess on a shared drive for the next eleven months. It’s a consideration for every day. What isn’t working? What causes your team pain? You can even think of it from a selfish perspective – what bits of my job do I hate and why do I hate them? How can I improve them so I don’t hate them anymore?


What you are providing is a service. It’s not a contract (though it is likely to be contractually bound). We hear more and more about customer experience yet we forget that we, as service professionals, are providing a service to our clients, not a list of activities or outputs. When considering CSI, ask yourself how your service feels to a customer and think about what you can do to make that experience better.


Too often, people confuse change with improvement. Just changing something doesn’t make it better. When you are looking at ideas for CSI activity, make sure it is a measurable improvement. Can you articulate how it will make something better and measure the before and after so you’ll know if it had the desired effect?

It doesn’t have to be a tangible improvement like cost, speed or quality; intangible improvements that make a service feel better can be just as valuable, though you still need to measure the improvement (e.g. improved customer satisfaction scores). Either way, you must be able to define the improvement. If you can’t, then it probably isn’t an improvement. It’s just a change.

So, keeping the name in mind, why not dust down that CSI process and tear up that year-old CSI log?

Start afresh and enjoy the opportunity to be truly creative.

Don’t let ITIL get in your eyes

Driving to work today, the sun was low in the sky and it made it hard to see clearly.  Pulling down the sun visor helped but if you’re like me – vertically challenged – it can have a limited effect.  So it was a difficult journey because the sunshine, though welcome, obscured the view.

I think ITIL can be like that sometimes.

Some people worship at the altar of ITIL as though it is there to be obeyed at all costs. You must do it like this; you must have this process in place; you must implement this tool.

In our desire to adopt ITIL, we forget that ITIL was never set up to be a religion. ITIL is guidance, not God.

As a consultant, it can be easier to step back and see the bigger picture, because we are not caught up in the weeds of day-to-day service operations. The flipside is that we can be a bit evangelical and over-zealous.  And that’s where the balance needs to be struck.

In reality, a full-blown incident management solution is great, but if a spreadsheet and a one-page procedure will do, then we need to suggest that. Not deliver two-hundred pages of shelf-ware and a sexy top of the range piece of kit that takes months to implement.

A good consultant will know the Albert Einstein quote and suggest a solution that “should be as simple as possible, but not simpler”; one that will get you started on the right path and will lead you to the promised land of an ITIL-aligned solution that best serves your business’s needs.

Rather than being blinded by the ITIL sunshine, if your sun visor does not provide adequate shade, a cushion on your seat can be a better solution than hiring a chauffeur or buying a new car.