Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called for better security procedures in U.S. airports last year.
Why? Because when undercover “Red Team” agents recently tried to smuggle guns and fake explosives through airport security checkpoints, only 3 out of 70 airports managed to spot them. According to my iPhone calculator, that’s a whopping 4 percent success rate!
Our guess is that if agents had attempted to smuggle moisturizer in 3.5-oz. containers, the TSA’s success rate would have been markedly higher. Hey, we’ve all experienced their uncanny ability to detect that bottle of water we forgot in our backpack…
So what does this tell us?
It tells us that if you absolutely must take moisturizer through airport security, the best way to do it is to strap it to a gun. Yup, surround that toothpaste tube with plastic explosives, and you’ll render it invisible.
The TSA’s fixation on what’s less important (keeping my skin from becoming dry) has grown to the catastrophic detriment of what’s really important (keeping my plane from blowing to smithereens at 30,000 feet).
But the TSA isn’t the only organization where people quickly become experts at things that detract from their real end goals.
The same phenomenon afflicts an alarming number of medium- to large-sized businesses. And here’s the thing: a lot of the time, the end goal isn’t even defined!
In some large organizations, you’ll see each division act like a small robber baron kingdom with one unstated objective: to gain supremacy over all others.
People possess subject matter expertise and leadership abilities, of course. But their day-to-day tasks are really about fighting for and defending their turf against everyone else.
The result is familiar to anyone who pays attention to politics: lots of motion, but very little progress.
Not only is leadership oblivious to this inertia; they unwittingly place extra value on it. It is incentivized. This results in a tragic waste of talent and resources that could be used to achieve amazing things for individuals, the organization, and (gasp!) customers.
These organizations don’t have clear goals, and certainly not shared goals. So, like the TSA, they find things they’re good at, and like the TSA, they do the things that make them feel (and look) productive. “Look! Toothpaste! Get it!” or “Meetings! We need more meetings!”
SMART Goals prevent this.
SMART Goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. They are actionable and we can hold ourselves and each other accountable for what we’re collectively achieving. And remember why we do what we’re doing.
So next time you find yourself reluctantly throwing away that new tube of hand lotion at the airport, take a second to ask yourself this question: What unstated objective have I or my organization become expert at to the detriment of what’s really important? Are we making people’s lives better, or simply preventing people from having silky smooth skin?
Macleod & Co. is a premier full-service Twin Cities marketing agency, with a special emphasis on digital, brand and the strategy that unites the two. We partner with businesses of all shapes and sizes, from startup hustlers to established empires, to create and execute strategies that deliver results.