Audience friendly goals

I’m reading An Elegant Puzzle and this quote stuck out to me:

The two tests of an effective goal are whether someone who doesn’t know much about an area can get a feel for a goal’s degree of difficulty, and whether afterward they can evaluate if it was successfully achieved.

Will Larson, An Elegant Puzzle

Whoa. An effective goal is not only user friendly, it’s also audience friendly. You want an outsider hearing the goal to understand how hard it is and whether you achieved it.

Here’s the example of a bad goal:

We will reach an average of 300ms to render our frontpage.

See why that’s bad? An outsider has no idea how big of a deal that is. Now here’s the same goal, but written to be audience friendly:

“In Q3, we will reduce time to render our frontpage from 600ms to 300ms. In Q2, render time increased from 500ms to 600ms.

Much better. An outsider can understand how big of a deal that goal is that without any other context.

The book says good goals have 4 numbers:

  1. A target: what you want to reach.
  2. A baseline: where you are today.
  3. A trend: the current velocity.
  4. A time frame: the bounds for the change.

And you can see them all in the example:

  1. The target: 300ms
  2. The baseline: 600ms
  3. The trend: Increased by 100ms in the last quarter
  4. The time frame: Q3

Pretty neat, right? Audience friendly goals. Write your goals so that outsiders can understand the difficulty and judge completion.


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