Sunday, September 1, 2013

Stated Goal Analysis by Allen Laudenslager

Here's a really great article by Allen Laudenslager (my good friend and writing partner).  You can read more of Allen's blogs at http://allenandson.blogspot.com/

My two cents are that managers often have a hidden agenda in the rules they make, and oftentimes there's corporal punishment for the infractions of the few.  People aren't stupid either, they can usually connect the dots and figure out the hidden agenda. 
 
Stated Goal Analysis by Allen Laudenslager

Years ago I worked as a civilian contractor on an Army post and I wanted to ride my motorcycle to work.  The Army required that everyone riding a motorcycle on the post take a motorcycle safety course.  Their stated goal was:
 
“In order to reduce the number of motorcycle accidents, all motorcycle riders will be required to take the motorcycle safety course.” 
 
While taking the course, I learned that over 80% of all motorcycle accidents involved an automobile, and that the automobiles were at fault 80% of the time.  In other words, automobiles were at fault for 64% of all motorcycle accidents!  I was scratching my head trying to understand why the Army required this class only for motorcycle riders who were only at fault 36% of the time?  Why didn’t they require the class for automobile drivers too since they were at fault 64% of the time?
 
The Stated Goal method of analyzing an idea is to clearly state the goal and the recommended solution in a simple sentence or paragraph.  If the resulting statement includes all the significant information and sounds logical then the plan is fundamentally sound.  Conversely, if the statement sounds ridiculous then the planned steps are flawed.
 
If the Army was being completely honest and logical, their stated goal should have been:
 
“In order to reduce the number of motorcycle accidents, all motorcycle riders (who are generally NOT at fault) will be required to take the motorcycle safety course, while all automobile drivers (who are generally AT fault) will NOT be required to take a safety course.”
 
Well let’s apply the Army’s logic to an OSHA regulated industrial machine.  Their stated goal could be:
 
“In order to reduce the number of industrial accidents, all machine operators will be required to take the machine operator safety course, while the machines will NOT be modified to remove any hazards.”
 
Common sense tells you that both are needed to reduce industrial accidents!
 
The Army’s motorcycle safety course requirement had an unstated goal…they really preferred that solders NOT ride motorcycles at all!  The motorcycle training course requirement acted as a disincentive to solders thinking about riding motorcycles to the base.  The goal was unstated because the individuals making the decisions didn't want to be recognized as being responsible for creating an obstacle to riding motorcycles.  Once the stated and unstated goals are merged, the Army’s stated goal becomes:
 
"In order to reduce the number of motorcycle riders and thus reduce the number of motorcycle accidents, motorcycle riders (who are generally NOT at fault) will have to take a motorcycle safety class, while automobile drivers (who are generally AT fault) will NOT be required to take a safety course.”
 
Now I’m not against motorcycle safety courses…statistics show they actually DO decrease the number of motorcycle accidents.  My point is only that managers use the stated goal method honestly and ethically to identify and evaluate any unstated goals before a plan is implemented. 
 
Whenever you clearly state the goal together with the desired outcome in the form of “By doing this we will end up with this” you can clearly see whether or not all the goals have been clearly identified or if there is some end goal being hidden.
 
Only by understanding the full and complete goals can you effectively contribute to achieving those goals. When some part of the goal is not clearly stated it’s usually because the person stating the goals doesn’t want to have to admit to some part of their goal they want from their audience.
 
In business, managers often keep some part of their true goals secret because they know that their workers would not willingly participate. If you catch yourself hiding some part of your goals, it's a pretty clear indication that you really shouldn't be doing that in the first place.

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