When embarking on making a change within your organization, the first step is to clearly define the new goal. This may seem like it is obvious, but we often fail because we are not able to answer some very basic questions.

These questions not only help better define your goals in clear, measurable terms, but they are also the tools we can use to keep us motivated as we go forward. Each time I have successfully made a major change in behavior or habit, I was able to answer each of these questions. Times that I have tried and fallen short, at least one ( if not more) of the answers were not clearly defined.

As you read on, the questions will quickly become familiar, but do not let familiarity result in lack-luster response. By investing time in thoughtfully considering the questions at the beginning, several of the following steps will develop in a much easier fashion. There are five questions that need to be answered as briefly or detailed as you deem appropriate. Don’t just answer them in your head – bring the members of your leadership board together to answer them out loud, and assign one person to record your responses so you will have them to refer back to as you make progress on your goal.

Question #1 – What is the desired outcome?

This is the most obvious of the questions since without it we cannot even begin to start. But even so, it should not be considered a throw-away question. This is the point we want to consider: are we looking at a specific detailed change of behavior, a new method of accomplishing tasks, or a bigger change in terms of overall attitude and atmosphere?

Some experts advocate for starting with something relatively small and very specific, citing that incremental changes are easier to implement than sweeping changes. Other will suggest that changing a wider range of behaviors that are all possibly linked in some manner is more effective as multiple “bonds” are broken all at once. I have used both methods at various times and achieved success. I believe the answer lies in the combination of the personality of the group members, prior success or failure and exactly what is being addressed.

Question #2 – How will success be measured?

Success looks different to everybody, but regardless, there is always a picture, a number, some kind of definition of what success means for each goal. Answer this question with a reasonable level of detail. Without the specific measurements, it becomes very easy to become satisfied with something less than the original plan.

If you are unsure about what is a good measurement, ask if someone else could verify that it was achieved. Think in terms of specifics: “being kinder to one another” is not measurable in and of itself; however, time spent arguing in meetings, number of arguments, or volunteer sign-up numbers are all rather straight-forward measurements. Keep in mind there may be several specific measurements to truly verify success.

Question #3 – When are you trying to reach this goal?

It has been said in a variety of ways, but it remains true regardless:

A goal without a deadline is just a dream.

Establishing a time frame not only creates a goal, but it also requires us to think about the logistics of implementation. Obviously this ties very closely with the second question. Once we know specifically what success looks like, what is reasonable to try and achieve in a given amount of time? A new meeting habit can often be created in two to four weeks, but major organizational changes will likely take a good deal longer.

Question #4 – Why is this important?

We often forget to answer this question when starting something new, but the answer to why is possibly the most critical. Having a healthier board is always a good idea, but just “because we should” is not very inspiring.

Clearly defining the answer to “why” gets us to our root motivation. Motivation is a very individual thing, but if it is legitimate, it is often the most powerful aspect of reaching our stated objective. However, motivation can also be elusive or changing. The thing that motivates us to start may not be what motivates us to continue. So be aware, the answer to this question might change. Work together as a group to define your higher purpose, and keep that purpose in mind as you struggle to make change. (Here’s a hint: you are in a position of leadership to serve your fellow members, so perhaps that should be the source of your motivation!)

Question #5 – Who will this change benefit?

Another way to ask the question is who are we doing this for? And the most complete answer may include aspects of both questions. The most obvious answer is that the members of your board will benefit from a positive change, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But of course, in the bigger picture, the rest of your organization or church membership will also see benefits from this change. Being honest about this answer allows us to predict when our motivation might change as a result of these people’s reactions to our change and our interactions with us in general.

And so the process begins by addressing the questions. Take your time (I know I am), be thorough and write them down somewhere so you can refer to them later as you work to define your goals. You may discover you need to make adjustments and tweaks along the way. It would be surprising if you didn’t.

But to begin a journey of purpose, you must first start with a destination in mind. – (That’s tweetable)

In some cases these things can be very personal. But if you are willing, I would love to hear about your destination so I can encourage you on your journey. Leave me a comment below, or click here to learn more about the ways I can help your board work through the changes that are required.

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