Stop Setting Goals: Try ‘Systems’

No more goals? Really? A revolutionary thought–and perhaps more so because it comes from Scott Adams, the creator of the  cartoon strip, Dilbert. Adams’ running commentary on contemporary business life, though cutting, is nothing if not completely logical and even practical. Hard to believe we would more productive without goals.

In the December 15 edition of Bottom Line Personal (, Adams’ comments resonate with the newsletter’s always valuable and practical information and advice.

Adams contends that the type of goal we’ve come to know and love (or hate) isn’t really motivational because it takes too long to achieve. Instead, he advocates “systems,” or ways of behaving that set the stage for achieving the goal behind the goal. You want to lose 10 pounds, for example, not just to lose 10 pounds but to be more attractive, healthier, or feel better about yourself.

A system can provide better support than a goal over the longer term and is straightforward. One component might be buying only healthful food for your kitchen so that you can prepare healthful meals. Another piece might be walking whenever possible; take the stairs at work instead of the elevator, for instance.

In selling, we call this a “buying motive.” You want to buy a car not just to have a car but to get you where you need to go quickly, safely, and comfortably. In business, you often want the best “value,” not the best price, because your career buying motive is to be seen as a higher level thinker who can become a high-level decision maker.

What do you think? Goals or no goals? Let us know and we’ll share the comments.

Scott Pemberton is a senior consultant at Productive Strategies, Inc., a marketing and management consulting firm specializing in consultative sales training, lead generation and appointment setting, and marketing and marketing communications.  Scott can be reached at 847-446-0008 Extension 3 and at


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