Does achieving goals mean success?

As the swim season comes to a close after six months of intense training and meets, it is time to evaluate our success. Success in swimming can be measured on a variety of levels: the number of meets won, the number of individual best times, the number of people that qualified for NCAA’s, the number of records broken, etc. Though each a sufficient method, evaluating success based on team and individual goals is an easy way that encompasses many of the fore stated quantitative results as well as other non-measurable aspects of the sport.

At the start of each season the women’s team captains arrange a meeting in which we discuss our aspirations and objectives for the season.

This year our team goals included:

1.       Beat Navy in the dual meet

2.       Get to know each other as more than just teammates

3.       Be supportive and positive at practice and meets

4.       Have at least a 3.4 team cumulative GPA

5.       Score more points at Patriots this year than last year

And my individual goals were:

1.       Break the 200 free school record

2.       Go faster than 52.0 in the 100 free

3.       Make Dean’s List

4.       Final in all of my events at Patriots

The goals of our organization can best be understood using a Natural System approach. Whetten and Godfrey, two natural system analysts, emphasize the cathectic properties of goals. “Goals serve as a source of identification and motivation for participants.” (p. 184 Organizations and Organizing) The goals we proposed at the start of the season were used to keep us on track when the season seemed long and drawn out. Although some of them are ambiguous, #2 and #3, vague and general goals are adequate for motivational purposes according to Scott and Davis.  Teamwork and cooperation were essential in making sure our goals were attained during the season. Though our goals were imposed by our captains it was the team as a whole that was able to achieve our goals. This is exemplary of Chester Barnard’s Cooperative System. Barnard emphasized that “organizations rely on the willingness of participants to make contributions.” (p. 70)

And now for the evaluation. Our team was unable to defeat Navy in the dual meet earlier this season.  We lost 157-138. Though we weren’t able to beat Navy, we had the most successful dual meet season that Bucknell has had in over ten years. We were 7 and 3 overall and defeated two teams that we lost to last year, Boston College and Duquesne.  Our second and third goals were intangible but I would argue we achieved them. The atmosphere on deck was different this year than in previous years.  Everyone showed up early for practice to chat for awhile before we had to dive in and during meets we were always on our feet supporting each other.  Our team GPA was not as high as we had hoped, our average was 3.27. Finally we were able to score 12 more points at the championship meet this year than last. Individually, I was accomplished each of my goals except I did not final in my third individual event at Patriots.

So, were we successful? I would argue we were. The Navy dual meet was a stretch for us, so this loss was disappointing but not devastating. Our team GPA was more of a let down.  We are student athletes and it is very important for our team to continue to excel in the classroom and in the pool. I gauged our success on unexpected events that we were able to do.  As a team we re-wrote the record board. Of the eighteen swimming school records, we broke fourteen of them.

Do you think an organization can be successful without achieving each of its stated goals and should these goals be specifically determined more or less important when originated?


7 Responses

  1. The part about GPA really caught my attention here. Your team did not meet its goal, but let’s say you got a 3.7. You should be happy about this, but clearly it is disappointing to know that an organization you are apart of did not reach one of its stated goals. Still, normally one would assume that you 3.7 is very respectable. But what if it had been a 4.0? And what if just a few other people had gotten a 4.0, which may have pulled the teams overall GPA up to what the goal was. Should you be disappointed in yourself for technically contributing to this “failed” attempt by not receiving an individual perfect GPA? How much should we be allowed to rely on each other to pick up our own slack, and when do our own personal achievements get to carry more weight than those of the group at large?

  2. I think that this idea of achieving goals as a measure of success is interesting and I am sure we have all come across it throughout our lives. When I read your comparison with this idea and sports I immediately thought of our High school lacrosse team where our goal for the season was to win states. We lost but still held a 15-2 record. Was that a successful season? It didn’t feel like it? Can success be measured by overall feelings we get when we know our efforts to attain a particular goal are over?
    On another note, does it matter how you achieve your goals? If Navy’s top 5 swimmers were out with the flu and thus Bucknell won the dual meet, does that count as achieving your goal?

  3. Good points, and good questions brought up in the comments as well. To me, goals are targets that function more like “Aim for the stars, even if you miss, you’ll land on the moon” – or something like that…

    The way that we evaluate success is not by checking of a numbered list of goals but by honestly evaluating our efforts to get there. Goal-setting is also important in this case, we have to set incrementally challenging goals – astronomical goals (like aiming for the stars :-p ) are not realistic.

    Once it is time to evaluate, failure should also be analyzed as more than just the absence of a check mark. It should be seen more in the light of ‘lessons learned’ and ‘how to improve’ rather than… oops, let’s try again.

  4. Great question.

    The goals were cathetic at the beginning of the season.

    Did they serve a justification purpose towards the end?

  5. […] Food for Thought: Josh’s To be Ethical, or not to be Ethical, Megan’s Does achieving goals mean success? […]

  6. Answering your questions, I do not believe that you have to meet all your goals in order to be successful, and your case proved this to be true. With 14 records broken and the best record in 10 years, it would be hard to say you weren’t successful. As to your second part of the question, I guess I would have to argue that some goals should be determined more or less important upon origination. Although this is a personal belief, I think that in any organization there will always be a number one goal, with subgoals falling below them. Enron’s number one goal seemed to be hitting th 15% mark each term, and thus they strived to achieve it by whatever steps necessary. If I was building a house, I would have a number of goals that I would need to achieve. In my mind I would rank the importance of each one, maybe with the completion date as most important. Whether I actually had the time to add a second story balcony or get just the right landscaping would not be as important as having the house completed on time, and I would know this ahead of time. I’m sure others could argue against me on this point, but it’s just the way I go about accomplishing things.

  7. Interesting points. I think it is important in this case to understand the context of the situation. Do students swimmers go to Bucknell to be among high caliber students, or do they go to Bucknell to part a part of a team with amazing swimmers? The Bucknell swim team coach probably assumes their swimmers have both goals: a good education, and competitive swimming. So if student swimmers reach their swim team goal, but not their GPA goal… their winning on one side but losing on the other. Therefore, it seems like it is important to meet both of the goals.
    Having the word Bucknell attached to swimteam means having a gpa attached to swimming. There both important goals, and im not sure in this case, if you can miss out on either of these.

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