In a recent long, boring and unproductive department meeting (Aren't they all?) we were each given a “Strategic Planning and Assessment Framework” worksheet. The worksheet contained our institutional aspiration statement and our business area vision statement. We were charged with coming up with our area's strategic aspirations, enduring goals, key performance indicators, and projects for the current year. When did mission statements become strategic aspirations, and why? Are aspirations different than visions? Does anyone really care?

It is difficult for me to think about my organization's strategic aspirations when my personal aspirations are completely unrelated. I've never been motivated by organizational missions, aspirations, or goals, and I don't know anyone who is. The higher up in an organization people rise, the more they talk about such things, but that's one of the roles required of leadership. They walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk. If I were in their shoes, I'd be miserable. It's probably why they are paid a lot more.

I believe that a highly desirable, but perhaps impossible, objective for any organization should be to get some degree of symbiotic relationship between the aspirations of their workers and the aspirations of the company. The pursuit of one should aid, in some manner, in the accomplishment of the other. Unfortunately the hiring process in most organizations makes little, if any, attempt to measure or evaluate this compatibility. If it did, a lot fewer people would be hired.

More problematic for me was the request for “enduring goals.” It seems to me that this is an oxymoron. “Enduring” in most dictionaries means to persist or to survive in the face of difficulties, or it means “long-suffering.” Neither definition is one I want associated with the goals I'm supposed to be pursuing. I'm told that enduring goals are more specific than aspirations and missions, but still not as specific as objectives which, if properly stated, are specific and measurable. If goals really are supposed to be less specific, not measurable, and perhaps enduring, I think it only appropriate that the goal posts in athletic fields around the country should be called objective posts. Enduring goals, by definition, cannot be scored.

Goals are, by nature, achievement targets. “Enduring” implies that no matter what you do to achieve them, they are always there. That's got to be frustrating and de-motivating. Essentially an enduring goal is one that cannot be achieved, because to achieve it makes it non-enduring. I don't know about you, but I prefer the possibility of achievement, and if you send me after an unobtainable goal, I'll tell you where to go.

The fact that someone high up in management decided that we need “enduring goals” reveals another well-known fact. Being in top management does not necessarily mean that you know what you are talking about.