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My SMART as Hell Journey: Action

Posted by on March 13th, 2013 with 0 Comments

I wrote my first SMART as Hell goal in 1993.

After five years of hard work, great results, and excellent reviews, I found myself on a one-year assignment in Japan. I also found myself – surprisingly – lagging behind my colleagues in salary and title. While I had worked hard at developing my skills and completing my projects, I had put little or no effort into managing my career, my compensation, or my promotional path.

I had, like many before me, assumed that my career path would emerge naturally from my work.
I was, like many before me, wrong.

So, for the first time, I took control of my career.
I met with my new manager and together we wrote the following goal:

Train 1 Japanese Engineer to complete 100% of Corrective Maintenance Tasks
and 20% of Corrective Maintenance Tasks, unassisted, by March 31st, 1994.

We agreed that:

  1. Completion of this goal would earn me a ‘meets requirements’ on my review and a promotion to ‘Senior Engineer’.
  2. Training 2 engineers would earn me an ‘exceeds requirements’.
  3. Training 3 engineers would earn me a ‘far exceeds requirements’.

With this agreement, I stepped out of his office and looked across a floor full of cubicles and engineers – and felt like a combination of Neo, the Terminator, and Robocop.
I’m not joking.

For the first time I could remember, I scanned my environment with a indisputable objective.
My targeting system was in full acquisition mode and I could ‘see the matrix’ in high resolution

What do I see?

I see five of my American colleagues.
They’re sitting around drinking coffee and talking. It’s first thing in the morning. Most of them have a pretty light schedule for their first couple of weeks in Japan because – like me – most of them brought wives with them. Some brought children. They’re trying to set up their apartments and get their working visas and tie up all the miscellaneous loose ends that come with living in a new country.

I continued scanning to the other side of the room, where the new Japanese engineers were also sitting and talking.

What was my first action?

I walked away from the Americans and started introducing myself to the Japanese engineers.
While my colleagues were asking “How do I get moved in?”, “Where can we get clothes?”, and “I wonder if there’s a pizza place in town?”, I was wondering, “Who’s goingto be the easiest guy to train this year?”

I started looking at the 20 Japanese guys. I walked around the room, chatted with them, found out which ones had the best English, asked about where they came from and what they’ve done before and eventually when I got about the seventh guy, a guy named Yokota-san. I thought, “Hmmm, this guy’s trainable!”

So I grabbed Yokota-san nd I walked him over to the scheduler. We asked the scheduler to give us an machine installation, where I could train him in a controlled environment. And then we started work that next morning.

As the installation completed, I asked, “How many PMs (preventative maintenance) do you guys do a month in Japan?”

Yokota-san said “Oh we do one or two a day”.

“Great!” I replied. “I want you to schedule PMs for us every day for the rest of the month.

This struck some as odd. Most hotshot engineers don’t like to do Preventive Maintenance jobs because they’re not exciting.  As engineers, we like to be heroes. We like to ride in, fix a broken machine, and leave to applause and gratitude. PMs don’t provide that.

What PMs did provide was an opportunity for me to achieve my goal of training Yokota-san.

So, we scheduled these. I didn’t touch the tool. I stood behind him with a procedure and said, “Do step A, do step B, etc”. For a whole week – five days – basically he was a robot, just doing everything I said. By the end of the first week, he was one step ahead of me on the procedure.  The next week he started doing it myself. by the third week he could do a PM completely by himself. And then I just started finding problems as we were doing the PM’s and guided him, “do this, fix that”.

In less than five months, I handed Yokota-san off.
He could do 100% of PMs and 20% of corrective maintenance.
I had met my goal.

Pick any random cliched goal quote you’ve ever seen:

  • “A goal properly set is halfway reached” – Zig Ziglar
  • “To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal” – Abdul Kalam
  • “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude” – Thomas Jefferson
  • “Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan” – Tom Landry
  • “Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another” – John Dewey

All of them were try in my case, particularly the last one – because my journey was just starting.

SMART as Hell Exercise:

  1. Review: The goals you are currently working on.
  2. Ask: Do these goals provide me with ‘Matrix’ or ‘Terminator’-like clarity? Can I see the targets I wish to acquire? Can I identify the ‘hidden’ moves that will help me win the game?
  3. Reflect: If your goals are not providing clarity, why not?
  4. Rewrite: your goals to provide clarity.
Share your questions, comments, and reflections below.
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