Goal Tending

goaliglovesOne of the things I find most fascinating (and frustrating) about games is that typically you’re not modeling an external goal-set, but are creating one out of whole cloth — and thus one that the potential user must find attractive, engaging, and fulfilling.  It sets a whole new bar on software “usability.”This observation by my friend Mike Sellers, a long-time game industry exec who is chief alchemist at http://www.onlinealchemy.com/, got me thinking about the issue of identifying goals, and how this process becomes more complex when one is involved with getting individuals to align in the service of organizational goals.When we’re selling software, the first set of goals we need to meet are those of the people making the buying decision.

The buyers’ goals may, or may not be in alignment with the goals of the people who will be asked to actually use the software.

In the case of collaboration software and training software, disconnects of this sort may result in the successful sale of a license or hosting contract followed by a project which never quite gets off the ground.

The thing is, unlike those in the gaming industry, we e-learning and collaboration folk are charged with facilitating the process of our users getting real work done.  Our users are being paid to serve actual goals.  So we are relieved from the daunting challenge of creating goals, but this also means we really need to resist the all-too-frequent temptation to simply imagine we know what those goals are and what participants need in order to fulfill them, and thus “create an external goal-set of whole cloth.”

Often, this means we need to do some actual research into just what the goals of the people doing the work are, how those align (or fail to align) with the goals of the organization, and figure out just how much change management needs to be baked into the processes of launching  administering, and participating in a new community space or training program.  In order to achieve an alignment which results in greater productivity for the organization through a process which feels attractive, engaging, and fulfilling for the people who are doing the heavy lifting, we really have to have a good understanding of the environment in which these folks operate, so that our model of the external goal-set bears some actual resemblance to the one already in place.