Frameworks for setting and achieving Goals

31 Aug, 2011, by Seema Bhatnagar

This is a part II of seven part series of Goals setting and achievement.

  1. Part I, Why you should have goals?
  2. Part II, Frameworks for setting and achieving goals.
  3. Part III, Initiation
  4. Part IV, Planning
  5. Part V, Execution
  6. Part VI, Controlling
  7. Part VII, Learning


Framework can be defined as a set of processes or actions to accomplish a particular task in a structured way. Though goal setting sounds very simple and as per a general perception goal setting is a simple TO DO list which can be checked once or twice a day for status update. Though it sounds simple but it has a complexity built underneath. This approach works great when you do not have to think about the different dimensions of your goals and it is simply a collection of mechanical tasks like giving a phone call to a client or friend, buying a grocery, writing an email to team members etc.

This is not very helpful when you have to work on a long term bigger goals, here long term bigger goals, I mean any task which takes longer duration, may be more than a week or month. A good example for long term big goals could be of setting up personal business, losing weight, maintaining health, learning new skills, getting into habit of eating healthy etc.

connect goals

Personally, I feel each and every task which needs duration of more than a day or two comes in a category of mini project. Why I feel so, because each task which needs more than a day needs a thorough thinking, planning and strategizing from end to end. Those of you who are not familiar about the concept of project, may think of construction of tall building or a house, construction of software, setting a business at a new location, starting a shop as good examples. As you may see, these looks like goals but in my personal definition these are mini projects or for the sake of simplicity you may call it as a project. We may also say a goal is a subset of project or bigger goal.

As per my professional experience of project management, each and every project is a collection of small goals with a vision and outcomes clearly stated. This goes very true for all of us too when we want to achieve any particular goal. We start with a clear vision and outcome of our goals and embark on our journey of achieving it. And yes, the project or a goal has an equal possibility of failure and success.

If you pay attention to any successful project, you would find, how each and every aspect of project has been thought through. Any aspect which has not been taken in to account could bog down the progress of the project or it can drive the project towards failure. I would take an example of Delhi Metro Rail Project, a project about constructing a metro line in Delhi, India as an efficient mass transit public transport system. Going by the dense population and the volume of traffic in Delhi, constructing a metro line was a tough challenge in front of DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation). DMRC undertook the challenge and executed it with immaculate project management. Now, in todays date all ends of Delhi are connected via Delhi Metro. Now each and every Delhiite cannot think life without metro. Construction of metro in Delhi is a big success because of excellent planning and timely goal achievement behind it.

Similarly construction of Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, Taj Mahal in Agra, India are other good examples of how goals can be achieved over the period of many years of step by step progress with perfect planning and execution however difficult or challenging they may be. It is not only the construction of building which comes under the purview of project or goals but you may take an example of big companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google, how they have evolved and progressed slowly by working on visions and goals over a period of several years.

So what are those aspects which are so important and determine the success and failure of the project? Yes, every project follows some basic framework which is a step by step approach to accomplish the collection of goals. Fundamentally, a goal is a miniature or low level form of a project or we can say project is a collection of smaller goals. In both the cases a systematic approach for goal accomplishment is needed.

IPECL as a Framework

The expanded form of IPECL is initiation, planning, execution, controlling and learning. It is a five steps process with each step in sequence. The five steps in sequence are essentially different phases while managing a project or a goal.

  1. Initiation Phase

    This phase is about getting the goals in place or in simple words it is to think about the goals and results you want to achieve. You think about the objectives behind achieving the goal or why do you want to achieve goals and what are the outcomes you are looking for as an accomplishment of a goal or a project.

  2. Planning Phase

    This is a next phase during which you define the plan to achieve your goals. This is a most important phase of the all the phases. You think about all the possibilities and your constraints and the best way to overcome constraints and to achieve your goals. You think about the duration your goals will take and what are the possible obstacles which can confront you and what would be your strategy to overcome those obstacles.

  3. Execution Phase

    This is a phase, where you put your plan in action and get all the required resources in place for achieving your goals. This could be buying a new book, signing up for a gym membership, joining forum or buying tickets for making reservation for overseas travel.

  4. Controlling phase

    This is a phase where you measure your progress against the laid out plan for your goals. This is a phase where you can tweak your actions if required to meet the timelines. If you find yourself deviating from your plan, this is a phase where you can apply more force and get the things in control.

  5. Learning phase

    This is a last phase and by this you have already travelled the bumpy road to achieve your goals. While achieving goals you must have learnt new things/lessons which becomes your learning and which you can be put to use in your next goal setting and achieving exercise. This is about reviewing your progress and take the learning or experience to perform better next time in goal achievement.

This is a framework which is used to manage large projects. Due to its structured approach it keeps everybody focused towards the end results with continuous feedback over all the phases.

People from a project management background or people who are in jobs can very well correlate these phases and can appreciate its importance. Some of you might argue that it is more relevant for a scenario where there is more than one person or team is involved but as I stated before, each and every goal is a mini project which boils down to the fact that each goal need all these phases in sequence. In fact, it is simply a structured way of thinking.

What are the popular frameworks?

If you are a time management enthusiast then you must have heard about the various techniques/self-help books which talks about the best ways for managing time or how to get organized. The most popular ones are Getting things done (GTD), SMART(Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). These two are good ways to manage time and to set goals but they have their own shortcomings.

The Getting things done is more about the low level details about daily tasks and about how to handle the dynamics of everyday pressure, while SMART does not tell us on the progress and planning part of goals, but it is excellent for initiation part of goal setting.

If you compare IPECL with GTD and SMART, IPECL covers all aspects of goal setting and achievements and it keeps a continuous tab on progress. The idea behind IPECL is to make an individual think about vision, objectives, strategizing, planning and execution aspects of project which are not found in any other known framework.

All successful projects follow IPECL framework for project or goal accomplishment.

Having said that, IPECL is not a panacea for goal setting and achievement, but for sure, it is a much more structured approach.

Advantages of IPECL

  1. Structured approach

    Since it is a structured approach with sequence of steps to be followed, it keeps you more focused and attentive towards your progress and goal accomplishment. You do not have to think about the next action to take.

  2. Suitable for all type of goals

    As I mentioned before, each goal is a mini project in itself which means each goal, whether small, medium or big, needs thorough planning and thinking. This further means that a structured approach is required for each type of goal. You may apply this approach to all types of goals from small to medium.

  3. Brings clarity to goals

    Initiation phase of IPECL makes you to think about the objective and vision about your goals which actually brings more clarity to your thought process and you can visualize your goals better.

  4. Makes you to think about strategizing

    The planning phase of IPECL makes you to think about all the obstacles which you may face while executing your plan. It actually helps you to strategize in case your plan is jeopardised by any obstacles.

  5. Continuous tab on progress

    The best advantage of IPECL is that you can measure your progress against the set plan. In case you are stuck in the mid way you can tweak a bit and get started again.

  6. Makes you to review the results

    If you cannot learn from experience you will not grow. The last phase ensures that you review your progress and identify your learning from accomplishing it. Even if it was a failure you must learn from it to improve goal achievement next time.

Personally, I use a combination of all three depending upon the goals. If I have to manage my day to day activities I use simple TO DO list with priority attached. For medium to long term goals I follow IPECL approach. For example, for setting up my business, I followed IPECL.

Depending upon your type of goal you may choose the right framework and can go ahead with your goal setting and achievement.

In upcoming blog posts, I will write in detail about each phase of IPECL.

image©jaxon s
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Why you should have goals?

Seema Bhatnagar
, Blogger, Writer, Life Coach and Founder of Abundance Thinkers, site for personal growth and development. Empowering people in achieving and living the best of personal potential.

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