Thinking, planning, and problem-solving isn’t helpful unless one leaves with an actionable next step. Leaving a planning meeting with a clear Way Forward is essential, or you haven’t fully solved the problem.
Developing a clear and specific Way Forward encourages the performer to get granular on their next steps—the details of their new performance goal. It also provides a framework for providing feedback. A way forward eliminates ambiguity and drives action, not just planning.
Developing a clear way forward increases ownership of outcomes because the performer has a hand in creating them. They have more fire around the action because they have more ownership of it. They are committed to the action because they are committed to the end result.
A SMART Way Forward
Business consultants have developed a slew of acronyms for the things that are important in goal-setting, but the most well-known is SMART Goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. When setting the initial goal, we focused on specificity and achievability.
As you plan a Way Forward, you’ll get even more specific by creating a specific action plan. You’ll narrow all your options down to the one or two you will take immediate action on. Create a next step that has a clear metric and due date. It’s something reasonable to accomplish and tied to the performance result.
While most goal-setting research argues for setting difficult “stretch goals,” studies have shown that this holds true only when the performer feels confident in their ability to achieve the task. By setting a simple next-step Way Forward, the goal is broken down into task-based goals that the performer feels confident their ability to accomplish. This relieves anxiety and opens the performer up to discover systematic strategies to achieve their larger performance goal.
After you’ve developed a Way Forward action plan, determine a follow-up plan. Learn more about Check-ins, Feedback, and follow-though here.
Determining a Way Forward is the last element of any decision-making process.