I hear people talk about goals all the time. Much more rare is to hear about aims. A goal has an end state, while an aim does not.
“Reduce accidents by 25%.” That’s a goal.
“Reduce accidents.” That’s an aim. It gives us direction (we want less accidents), but there’s no numerical target.
As of this writing, I see numerical targets everywhere I look. Goal setting has become an unquestioned strategy for improvement. But there are some real dark sides to goal setting, and one big one is short-term thinking. An aim tends to foster longer term thinking and sustainability.
Once I learned the difference, things started becoming visible to me that were previously hidden. I started tuning my own language to use the proper word (aim or goal) depending on the context. And I find myself using the word “goal” less and less all the time.
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[…] Deming took this one step further by postulating that every system must have an aim. […]