Boris — a better way to set goals

What is Boris?: Boris is a service I provide for businesses, not-for-profits, and public organisations — it’s a 1-day workshop designed to help organisations become more productive by setting effective goals via talking about tradeoffs. Boris fits comfortably into strategic offsites and retreat formats.

Unlike conventional goal-setting approaches, Boris focuses on tradeoffs. This is the only way to set effective goals that enable both individual autonomy and coordinated action.

   The problem Boris solves
   Why Boris works
   How Boris works

The problem Boris solves: Boris originated in a problem identified by the CEO of a company I worked with. She told me that We spent months [on a strategic goal-setting exercise] getting the leadership team to agree on what our strategic goals are. I know that [all the leadership] is on the same page. But we keep on finding that different divisions are working at cross-purposes with each other and it feels like we’re still getting nowhere.”

Conventional goal-setting exercises focus on getting participants to converge on desired outcomes. They never pay any attention to the very different tradeoffs each person must make to achieve even shared goals. So, when it comes time to take concrete actions to achieve those common goals, each person, team, or division in the company invariably chooses actions with different tradeoffs based on the specific situations they face. With conventional goal-setting, the team comes to agreement about the words used to describe shared goals, but diverges in terms of what they are (and aren’t) willing to do to achieve those goals.

Though conventional goal-setting feels satisfying and productive, it leads to coordination problems and micromanagement. This is especially problematic for companies working in emergent and rapidly changing business environments.

Why Boris works: Boris solves this problem by taking an entirely different approach to goal-setting, one which focuses on articulating and negotiating acceptable tradeoffs.

How it works: To do a Boris workshop, leaders first identify participants. Ideally this is a group of no more than 10 people, usually senior team members and key stakeholders/decision-makers. Each participant does individual pre-work to articulate individual goals and acceptable tradeoffs (usually about an hour). The whole group meets in-person for a facilitated session that usually lasts 4-6 hours.

During a Boris workshop, stakeholders individually explain a) what they think shared goals should be, and b) what tradeoffs should be made to achieve those shared goals. Then I bring stakeholders through a process of negotiating their respective tradeoffs until all participants have converged on a set of acceptable tradeoffs.

By the end of a Boris workshop, the stakeholders participating will have converged on both shared goals and the acceptable tradeoffs to make in achieving those shared goals.

Get in touch with me if you’d like to run a Boris workshop. Before getting in touch, it is probably helpful to read this longer explanation of the underlying principles of Boris and what happens during a workshop.