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How to Add Story to Performance Goals

What if we developed performance and development goals using story formats? 

If you have worked for any large organization, you have liked heard of S.M.A.R.T. — using the methodology of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed attributes for writing and reviewing performance goals. For the organization and the employee, S.M.A.R.T. goals as a means to define a performance-based goal. S.M.A.R.T. intends to remove ambiguity, drive performance toward measurable outcomes, and create alignment between employees and the organization.

Yet as S.M.A.R.T. defined the goal by the expected outcome, knowing all the steps of the goal and the result, it at some point ceased to be a goal.

"In life, it's not dramatic to carry an empty glass. We must fill it to the brim."
Alan Alda - Podcast Clear and Present.

The SMART methodology does not help with the achievement of the goal. Its analytical approach to quantifiable measures can defeat the primary objective — achieving the goal through engagement and inspiration. 

What if we developed performance and development goals using story formats? Whereas S.M.A.R.T. measures for a predefined outcome, story focuses on the attempt, the journey, and the outcome— regardless of success and failure. 

Performance measures and rewards shift with the attempt, the process of growth, development, and learning regardless of the successful outcome. 

How to write a goal using story format?

Break story-written goals into the following elements:


Writing the goal statement is the story's beginning, looking for a desired destination or outcome. As the main character, goals define our work.


It is not likely that you can know all the steps to achieve a goal. But you should be able to define the first steps — setting a plan of action for the beginning of the journey.


What are the problems and obstacles to overcome? Not all of these can be known, and undoubtedly many will appear as you start to take action to achieve your goal. In story moving past antagonisms requires identifying what it will take to do it right, get passed, and then move past.

Support resources

How you will overcome obstacles can be people, tools, skills, processes that you either possess or need to start your journey or acquire.


Next, the story actions loop between progress and setbacks, moving the journey along. Progress continues until a setback is reached. The learner progresses in their story past the antagonisms, realizing growth must occur for progress.

Thinking about how the goal will progress and what check-ins turning points the goal will work through.

Turning Point

At the turning point, you have a clear view of their objective and of the obstacles and conflicts that remain between you and reaching your goal. The turning point determines success or realization there was a miscalculation in the initial understanding of their objectives. Whether the story ends in success or failure, the goals outcome success can be defined as the opportunity and development to take on more significant challenges, not success. 



What have you learned?  Story-driven goals are not one-time opportunities that cannot be given another chance to achieve. Growth from story goals can only come from repetition, persistence, failure, practice, adjustment, and achievement.Story goals focus on what is learned from the process, the journey, and the outcome.

How will you tell the story?

It is not enough to think about starting the adventure and setting about doing the work. You will have to find the means to document the journey. Put down the steps, writing the roadblocks, obstacles, and resources you encountered along the way. Stories set the pathways for others to follow in the future.

Reflection and evaluation

Ultimately, story-driven goals are moved forward by the main character through the performance of the work, discipline, ability to learn and develop and overcome obstacles to achieve their goal. Story goals convey meaning.

A story goal may not always end in success. Tragedy can be defined as failing to recognize that something isn't working and continuing to pursue the failure. Simple mistakes and failures can define our work and character if there is no correction sought.

Additional practice:

Using stories in the goal writing process can assist with achieving buy-in from stakeholders. Try to tell the goal story from your manager's perspective, from the organization, from a customer.

Learning Experiences:


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