026 – GUIDE-ing Principles vs SMART Goals

The IDEMS Podcast
The IDEMS Podcast
026 – GUIDE-ing Principles vs SMART Goals


SMART goals and principles are common monitoring and evaluation tools, but what’s the difference between them? Lucie and David compare the two approaches and their respective acronyms, considering when being SMART is useful, and when a GUIDE might be more helpful.

[00:00:00] Lucie: Hi, and welcome to the IDEMS podcast. My name’s Lucie Hazelgrove Planel. I’m a social impact scientist and anthropologist, and I’m here today with David Stern, founding director of IDEMS. How are you today, David?

[00:00:19] David: I’m doing very well, thank you. How are you doing?

[00:00:22] Lucie: Good. So, I wanted to talk about principles and try and understand more what makes principles different to other types of values or other types of systems to explain what an organization wants to do or how they want to do it. I know principles, it’s not only about what they want to do, it’s also about how they want to do it.

[00:00:45] David: Absolutely I think one of the things which I really enjoyed… our New Year special where we actually took principles and we took other M&E monitoring and evaluation frameworks that we use, and we applied them to something a bit lighter.

And I think that was sort of illustrative of the fact that there is not necessarily a best one. Different ones are useful for different things and in different contexts. And it’s about understanding how any of these frameworks, they are only useful if they’re used in a way which is useful.

[00:01:23] Lucie: Yeah. That sounds either silly or obvious, I’m not sure which, but it’s really important.

[00:01:30] David: It’s something which people forget quite often. And actually just, they assume there’s inherent value to some of these things, when there often isn’t. When they serve a good role, they can add value, but quite often, people apply them in times when actually it’s not when they’re best suited.

[00:01:49] Lucie: I was discussing with someone who’s a specialist in agroecological transformations. We were discussing the agroecology principles or elements recently, and they were saying that they can both be a goal, but also help you get to that goal, which I found really interesting.

[00:02:06] David: Yeah. I think that’s a really interesting one. I don’t associate principles necessarily with being goals, but I like that way that you can think of principles as goals. They’re something you are aiming and aspiring towards, but they’re also a way to get there in some ways. So, I like that idea. But in my mind, principles, I find much more powerful than goals.

[00:02:32] Lucie: And we should say also that what’s interesting about principles is that there’s sort of flexibility within that goal. There’s a recognition that it isn’t always going to be exactly the case or suit every situation.

[00:02:44] David: And more than that, there’s a recognition that it’s not the only sensible… A good principle should be expressed in terms of what it’s not as well as what it is, because what it’s not should also be sensible and worth aspiring to. It should involve this element of choice.

[00:03:09] Lucie: And we’ve been, we’ve been talking about goals, and I know, at least in my previous job, I was always told to set myself, in annual reviews and things, I was told to set myself SMART goals. Now I haven’t yet been told in IDEMS to set myself SMART goals actually.

[00:03:26] David: No, absolutely not I’m afraid. Maybe I’m just not smart enough, but anyway.

[00:03:34] Lucie: So for those who don’t know, SMART goals are meant to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. So they’re really sort of in this mindset of, well I call it a very square mindset, where you have to be followed by the clock and you’re very clear on what you want to achieve. That’s the A in SMART.

[00:03:52] David: And I think as I say, I do believe I’m not smart enough in this sort of context that I don’t know how to set good SMART goals in general. I think that almost always the best things I’ve done, the best pieces of work, the best things I’ve done, they would never have been achieved if I had SMART goals.

This is one of the reasons that you will not find me sort of pushing within IDEMS for us to adopt it, on the contrary. And it’s not that I don’t believe this is valuable or useful. I think there’s many people who are correct to adopt as an approach.

I guess it comes back to, and I’m going to go off the tangent, I apologize for this, but there was this fantastic work about in the early days of capitalism, Fordism, where there was real work about incentives, which showed how you could, with the right incentives, you could actually get more out of your employees.

And then there was some fantastic work, a number of decades later, which showed that if you provide monetary incentives for intellectual challenges, then, actually, the bigger, the monetary incentive, the worst people did on the task.

[00:05:07] Lucie: This is an interesting one.

[00:05:08] David: Yeah, and, of course, the research has happened, we’ve moved on since then in different ways, and it’s much more nuanced, and it’s, there is a lot of nuance around this, but that’s always stuck with me, you know, if you give people a task which is intellectual, which is intellectually stimulated, then, actually, the bigger the financial incentive, the more they rushed the task and the less effective they were at completing it. Now, if you needed out of the box thinking, you know, you need a bit of creativity to be able to achieve it, then people were, were trying to do it too quickly.

And by trying to do it too quickly, they weren’t doing it as effectively or efficiently as well. And this is my concern with SMART goals. I think SMART goals work really well when you don’t need creativity, when you don’t need that intellectual challenge. But almost all the best work I’ve ever done or been part of or seen, it’s been because of the learnings that happened and how you adapt and how you’re flexible and how you have directionality, but you don’t know, it’s not time bound, you don’t know how long it’s going to take to achieve certain things. SMART goals for me, are only smart if what you’re trying to do, if your ambitions, are small. If you have small ambitions, SMART goals are great to make sure you achieve them. If your ambitions are big, SMART goals are terrible because they never get you there. You can’t get there with SMART.

[00:06:34] Lucie: And so, do you, I mean, you suggest principles as a better…

[00:06:38] David: No, not as a better, I think this is really important as an alternative.

[00:06:42] Lucie: Well, okay. Yeah. But for bigger projects or for bigger…

[00:06:44] David: For more creative…

[00:06:46] Lucie: Objectives.

[00:06:48] David: This is, this is like you know, agile as an approach in software development.

[00:06:53] Lucie: Oh, yeah?

[00:06:54] David: Agile approach to software development is very different to actually planning everything out in advance in different ways. Now, you can use SMART elements, SMART goals within an agile setting. That’s not impossible, but the whole point of agile approaches where it becomes so powerful is the adaptive nature.

[00:07:18] Lucie: Yeah.

[00:07:18] David: Agile. And I would argue that there’s a lot of context within which those approaches are very valuable. And I think that principles are maybe better to help guide those processes than having fixed SMART goals. And it’s interesting that I won’t use the word guide without thinking about it, but of course…

[00:07:44] Lucie: I’ve been trying not to use the word.

[00:07:47] David: I’m sorry, I apologize, because of course GUIDE is the acronym or the equivalent of SMART for goals. GUIDE is the acronym for principles. And so let’s go back to SMART just for a second. SMART being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. And I think it’s really interesting that GUIDE is very different to that. And I think we’ll probably spend a little bit more time going through what GUIDE is.

[00:08:19] Lucie: Yeah, I’m just focusing on the word Measurable there too, which is, I think, really interesting. Which, you know, just from the word guide. Something which guides you is not necessarily measurable.

[00:08:31] David: No, it is evaluable. That’s the E on GUIDE.

[00:08:34] Lucie: Okay, and what’s the difference there then?

[00:08:37] David: Ah, very good question. So, monitoring and evaluation, I would argue the measurable is about the monitored. Valuable is about the evaluation in some sense. It isn’t saying how it should be measured or what you are measuring on. It’s not that you need to be able to measure the principle. It’s that you need to be able to evaluate what you are doing with respect to the principle. And so you are evaluating what you’re doing. Does that make sense? It is a subtle distinction. Maybe it makes sense, maybe it doesn’t.

[00:09:10] Lucie: Well, so, evaluating it is more to do with learning. Is it? It’s more to do with trying to see if you’re doing it okay, and what can be done better.

[00:09:22] David: Well, you can’t evaluate unless you have something measurable, and you’ve been able to measure, and you can’t do the learning unless you’ve got that. It sort of includes elements of measurable, but it doesn’t put the focus on the measurement. It puts the measurement, as you say, more on the learning than the evaluation, it’s not necessarily that different. I would sort of say that, probably, if people were coming up with GUIDEM, GUIDEM was a word, then they might not have been unhappy having measurement at the end, instead of, instead of an E for value, Evaluable. I don’t know.

But say it was a sensible word, a nice word, like smart, maybe then evaluable instead. And so there is an element of just a good acronym’s, a good acronym here, but I actually think there is substance to the fact that for me, when I think about evaluable, I do include measurable, but that’s not the main thing.

It is about the learning. It’s about the documentation. Can you not only document it, but can you make an evaluation based on that? And can you also determine based on what you know, sort of how this is relating to what you’re trying to achieve. And it’s not so different.

And this is where I find it very useful that if you look at them in many ways, your five things are interestingly similar and different.

[00:10:47] Lucie: So let’s just say, GUIDE stands for, in this context, it stands for Guiding, Useful, Inspiring, Developmental, and Evaluable, as we’ve just been discussing. So those are really quite different to SMART goals.

[00:10:59] David: Are they?

[00:11:00] Lucie: Well, the inspiring?

[00:11:02] David: Inspiring is the opposite of Achievable. I mean, just as a principle, if you think of these as principles themselves, which they sort of are.

[00:11:10] Lucie: Yes, as concepts.

[00:11:11] David: The principle of how you use principles versus the principle of how you use SMART. It is sensible to have something which is ambitious, which is inspiring, or it’s sensible to have something which is achievable and sensible.

[00:11:25] Lucie: And so I guess we’ve got Useful, Useful is the same as Relevant, or is it the equivalent there?

[00:11:30] David: Exactly, yeah. Useful and Relevant, again, they play a similar role. Time bound and Developmental.

[00:11:39] Lucie: Ah, okay.

[00:11:40] David: Because Developmental is not Time bound, by definition in some sense. It’s supposed to be something which evolves. But you don’t want your principles to come and go, you want them to evolve. You want them to have complexity. Not just to be time bound or something where you’ve done it and you actually know whether you’ve completed it or not. So, again, Developmental, I’d argue, is sort of the opposite of Time bound.

I would argue, therefore, that leaves us the only two we haven’t matched up yet as to Specific and Guiding.

[00:12:11] Lucie: Yeah.

[00:12:13] David: And it’s interesting that I wouldn’t naturally match them up, but given they’re the only two that’s left, I can see how to match them up. It’s very similar to your Inspiring and Achievable, that in some sense, your achievable things are very specific, whereas your inspiring things need guidance to keep the specificity.

So actually in the context of being aspirational rather than very practical, Guiding is the equivalent of Specificity. It’s actually giving some elements of prescriptiveness, of directionality and, you know, that’s, that’s really important. And I think in terms of, again, thinking of this as being specific, it’s this distinction, a good principle, you should be able to say what it’s not, what its alternative would be.

And that’s that specificity, that it’s not just something which is there, it’s something you have to be able to put, or you should be able to put an alternative to, to say it’s this as opposed to that. And so there’s that element of specificity in that, I would argue.

[00:13:19] Lucie: Yeah, sorry, I’m sort of thinking that through.

[00:13:21] David: Good. You don’t sound convinced by the Specific and Guided.

[00:13:33] Lucie: Well, because principles have to sort of be specific. I mean, they have to be specific in the sense of to be useful, you have to be specific about what they are, what they mean, and what they’re opposed to.

[00:13:42] David: You’re just describing what I see as the guidance aspect. So I think we’re saying the same thing. Principles have to have specificity, and that specificity is what means you can use them to guide you. So this is the point, that therefore the Guiding and the Specific actually, you know, they can and should be matched. It’s something I wouldn’t necessarily have done except that they’re the only thing that was left, and then suddenly it made me think about that.

[00:14:13] Lucie: Which is a hopeless reason, isn’t it?

[00:14:15] David: No, it’s not! I mean, I think this is really important because there’s no reason why everything should match up.

[00:14:21] Lucie: Well, that’s what I meant. Just because they’re the last things that were left, that isn’t a reason to match them.

[00:14:25] David: No, that’s because my creativity wasn’t enough. The fact that everything matches up, and we’ve got two things which are actually sort of opposite in some sense, in the sense of Inspiring versus Achievable, and Developmental versus Time bound. Everything else is broadly the same -: Relevant and Useful – really playing the same role. The Evaluable and Measurable are playing the same role, and Guiding and Specific are playing the same role. So if the acronym had been different, you could have used interchangeable words in some of these and to get another good word.

This is probably part of the reasons you can get such good acronyms, because probably they’re not unique acronyms to be able to get this, but the concepts are all really important. And this is, to me, why we’re seeing the value of principles. That, in some sense, when you take this GUIDE, or SMART, we should be thinking of those as principles, not as being prescriptive.

And I think this is where, if you think about SMART goals as being the principles behind these sorts of goals. Now what’s so powerful, of course, now we’ve just lined up our GUIDE for principles and our SMART and we can say, okay, so when should you be using principles versus SMART goals?

Well, the answer, I think, is rather interesting. We should be using the principles when we value things which are Inspiring or Developmental, and we should be using goals when we’re looking for things which are Achievable and Time bound.

[00:16:14] Lucie: Yeah.

[00:16:16] David: And it’s as simple as that. And now you’ve got a fantastic way, actually having analysed these properly, sensibly together, of understanding when you would choose one over the other.

And therefore, now we can get into a framework of saying, okay, if you’re wanting to do achievable time bound tasks, use SMART goals. We recommend them, they’re a great framework because their principles, the principles are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound are really good for this.

[00:16:48] Lucie: Yeah.

[00:16:49] David: Whereas if you’re wanting to do things which are inspiring, you know…

[00:16:53] Lucie: Ambitious.

[00:16:54] David: …developmental, that are going to carry on over time.

[00:16:58] Lucie: Yeah, sorry, ambitious was the wrong word, perhaps there.

[00:17:01] David: I mean, you can have ambitious goals, but they’re time bound. The developmental part is this element, it’s not time bound, it’s enduring. This is tackling wicked problems. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t use the term wicked problems without digging into a long discussion about what it is. So imagine I didn’t say wicked problems. But dealing with complexity. When you’re dealing with complexity, and you therefore are not aiming for a solution based approach then your principles are much more powerful because that’s what they’re designed to do.

This is where these things help. It’s not that principles and GUIDE approach is better than goals and taking a SMART approach. It’s that, well, sometimes you want to take on ambitious, as you put it, developmental aspirational tasks, whereas other times you’re looking to have a goal which is time bound and achievable. And therefore, you should choose SMART if you’re wanting something which is time bound and achievable.

[00:18:07] Lucie: What does this mean though? I’m afraid I’m thinking of, in terms of most organisations, most individuals, in terms of our normal daily or, you know, yearly work lives, we have to give some sort of report. So, how can we use the SMART goals? If GUIDE for principles aren’t time bound, then how can we monitor them? How can we evaluate how we are working on those?

[00:18:34] David: Well, they have evaluable as part of the principles, we’ve just come across that. And so this element of being able to evaluate principles is there. It’s just, you’re not evaluating whether they are achieved or not. You’re able to judge or evaluate whether they were followed. You’re able to judge or evaluate what they lead to. And you’re able to judge or evaluate whether it’s leading you to where you wanted to go. Now some of those judgments aren’t quantitative. This is the other thing which I think…

[00:19:08] Lucie: No, exactly. All of those ways you can evaluate something, with a lot of them, I can’t see how it can obviously be, in the immediate, perhaps this is the anthropologist of me talking, but I can’t see immediately how it can be quantitative.

[00:19:24] David: I’m afraid you’re an anthropologist, and so you and I would both recognise that even in the SMART growth, when they’re saying they’re Measurable, that doesn’t mean quantitative measures necessarily. Qualitative measures are just as valid. I think that is possibly true that in many ways, especially this question of whether, are the principles guiding you to where you want to go?

That almost always has to be qualitative of the people who are setting the principles. Because you can’t answer that quantitatively, this is the whole point. And it’s exactly why principles are so powerful for these complex situations. If we could set it out and say this is where we want to go and we’re going to get there, then it’s now just a goal and we can use a SMART approach for that.

There’s a concrete difference, I believe, between when one is valid and then when the other is valid. So, for example, if we were to look at our pathways of change, which we’ve done recently in the context of one of our recent grants. If we take that approach, I would argue that actually setting out goals of what we’re trying to achieve in that grant within a bounded period of time, trying to have smart goals for that would not be inappropriate. However, the whole power of our principles in general is the fact that we’re not bounded to that piece of funding. You know, our principles endure. What we’re trying to achieve, what we’re trying to do endures beyond any specific piece of funding or any specific project. So, if you want to put yourself within the period of a project, that’s why SMART goals are so powerful, and this is why I’m so against them.

[00:21:22] Lucie: Yes, that’s really interesting, yep. It’s coming again to this sort of time bound, you know, time bound project versus actually, lifetime ambition.

[00:21:32] David: Exactly, and my aversion to this SMART approach, this sort of statement that I don’t feel I’m SMART enough, is I’ve never had a project that I’ve been part of where people have been able to set SMART goals and achieve them within the time bounds of that project. Because every project that I’ve been part of, which I felt has been really worthwhile, we’ve ended up asking or opening up more new issues, more new problems through the course of the project than we ever closed off.

[00:22:10] Lucie: But also trying to deliver more than what has been asked for.

[00:22:14] David: That’s a separate thing. But the point is that there’s many which ran their course, they finished, but it’s left me very unsatisfied quite often. I had a wonderful project, which was very time bound, very SMART in different ways. And gave one of the most amazing teacher trainings that I’ve ever given as part of that. And it was effective for those few teachers. But it wasn’t scalable, it wasn’t actually able to be transformative, and to take it into something which could be transformative. There wasn’t another project to do that, there wasn’t any follow on funding in that way. We learned so much, and I take a lot of those learnings with me, this is over 10 years ago now, I’ve taken a lot, they’ve grown a lot within me.

But as a project, it was then just finished. And that’s incredibly unsatisfying in that particular case. This is one of the reasons I’ve left academia. It’s because that’s how things often worked. And people want things to work like that, which I don’t understand. And actually to imagine that having these sorts of SMART goals is a good thing for most developmental issues is mind boggling to me because there’s so much complexity in development. And I’m should be clarifying here I don’t just mean international development here.

[00:23:35] Lucie: Well exactly. To me developmental means more sort of human, humans developing as you know from babies to adults or something.

[00:23:43] David: That’s a form of development, but I mean there’s also the element that if you take the UK economy and you think about the sustainable development goals, there’s a lot of movement which is needed there, which I would call again development.

Now it’s development which is maybe not in the traditional sense of international development because the UK is a wealthy economy, it’s actually financially it’s not the financial development which is necessarily needed as much in this context as societal development in certain ways.

And those are really interesting. I mean, the obvious case of that is of course related to climate and the efforts to have net zero and things like this. These are developmental goals which are societal goals where we’re trying to develop our society in ways which will make it more sustainable, which will make it we hope, more economical.

I mean, the evidence for that is growing, but the development focus isn’t purely economic. And that’s really interesting and really important. And that’s what I mean by development here, that it’s development in all those senses, how we want our societies to develop.

[00:24:54] Lucie: And that’s very much what IDEMS is about, how we want society to develop, I guess.

[00:25:01] David: Yes, it’s innovations in development, and that’s the meaning of it in that context. And so to come back to this idea of looking at principles and thinking about this GUIDE framework versus the SMART framework for goals. I want to repeat, it’s not that one is better than the other or worse, it’s that they serve different purposes.

One is for aspiration, the other is for practical, concrete time bound. They serve equivalent roles for their two contexts. So understanding what is it you’re wanting to do and why, and I wish quite often people would spend less time on SMART goals. Do you know why? Presumably you can guess.

[00:25:57] Lucie: To think more outside the box and be more flexible?

[00:26:01] David: Well in some sense, yes, because by focusing your efforts on SMART goals you’re losing the opportunism. Actually, if we were thinking more about principles and fitting within, we can seize the moment and seize opportunities, opportunity and opportunism in ways that it’s very hard to do if you’re focused on your SMART goals.

I think there’s a lot of time and effort put into SMART goals where I’m not saying SMART goals are bad, on the contrary there’s a lot of cases where they’re good. I’m saying they’re often used in cases where actually I would rather people weren’t thinking in such a time bound way, that I think they’re losing bigger picture opportunities because they’re not being guided towards what they want to do. They’re just focusing on what they said they would do, what they plan to do. And that’s the problem for me, with many projects that follow SMART approaches.

[00:27:03] Lucie: That’s really interesting.

[00:27:06] David: I’ve been around the block a bit on these and I do feel that I often come out very unsatisfied because so much time and effort gets put into the sort of SMART goals at the beginning and then actually all these amazing things come up but they just get lost and they get left behind because the structures have been set up about things which are SMART.

There are many contexts within which that is appropriate, but they are often used in, in my opinion, in contexts where they are not. And I wish more time was put into GUIDE-ing principles, GUIDE, as a framework. The idea of working on things which are more aspirational appeals to me. I think it’s what the world needs right now. We need a bit more of that ambition, that aspiration. This is what we can achieve. How do we get there? And so that’s why I’m so keen on principles.

And it’s very interesting that some people moved away from principles to elements. And there’s this mixture of principles and elements within agroecology. I believe FAO now has its ten elements, where there are other groups who have equivalent principles.

[00:28:24] Lucie: Exactly.

[00:28:26] David: And I don’t want to delve into those discussions, because those have been deep expert led discussions, which have decided one way or another. But I do feel that element is rather weak. Yes, these are elements of agroecology and that deliberately says nothing about whereas the principle….

[00:28:48] Lucie: Yeah, it doesn’t say where you want to go and what could be possible. Absolutely. As you said, in terms of the Inspiring.

[00:28:54] David: Yes, exactly. It’s this element that actually if you think of them as principles then they become rather powerful in nature, just as you discussed when you found that you were discussing that dual role of the principle…

[00:29:10] Lucie: Yeah.

[00:29:11] David: …of being both the goal of where you’re aiming for, but also the guidance on how to get there.

[00:29:19] Lucie: Well, thank you for trying to explain to me the difference between being SMART and being GUIDE-ing. I don’t know if that works. The difference between goals and principles.

[00:29:30] David: Well, I apologize if you felt I was explaining it to you. I was just…

[00:29:34] Lucie: No, I’m, I’m, I’m sort of thinking it through. And I guess I’m sort of wondering when in my own work and sphere, when I should be thinking in terms of goals and when I should be thinking in terms of principles. I still have this one final sort of thing always, I find it strange that it’s always evaluating the principle itself rather than evaluating the work. Like, you know, SMART goals, you’re evaluating your work rather than the principle, whereas GUIDE principles…

[00:30:07] David: No, you’re doing both. No, no, no, no, no, no. It’s really important. Thank you for bringing this up. This is a really important point. The evaluate in principles applies to both. It applies to both whether your work is following the principles, so you’re evaluating what you do with respect to the principles, just as your SMART goal, you’re evaluating yourself against the goal you said you’d achieve.

[00:30:37] Lucie: Yeah.

[00:30:38] David: So it includes that. But the thing which makes it much more powerful is the second part. You’re also evaluating the principle itself, because the principle isn’t time bound. It’s not finished at the end of when you do your evaluation. It’s enduring. And because it’s enduring, it then needs to be revised. It needs to evolve.

[00:30:58] Lucie: Yeah.

[00:30:58] David: You need to question the principles. And so that dual evaluation? I mean, I suppose it’s a dual evaluation.

[00:31:07] Lucie: Yeah.

[00:31:08] David: It’s really important.

[00:31:09] Lucie: But uhm, I mean, I guess that’s one aspect of SMART goals is that, is that they don’t have that flexibility within the goal and it doesn’t encourage reflection on the goal itself. Or adaptation to the goal.

[00:31:19] David: Exactly. You’re supposed to be able to, at the beginning, plan out what you want to do, and know you can do it, know that it’s achievable within a time.

[00:31:27] Lucie: And that’s what you meant by principles can include and have space for that opportunism and being aware of the wider context and unexpected things happening, perhaps.

[00:31:36] David: Well, and the need and the value of adaptation. I work with real world experts. I’m really privileged to have that opportunity. But I don’t know a single world expert who knows in advance how things will go. I’ve never met anyone to know in advance. And so the point is, this is why in so many cases I’d rather people actually use principles than the goals, because if you know that the goals you’re setting yourself, you’re going to have to change them and adapt them anyway, then you shouldn’t be setting goals.

Goals are fantastic in the context where you do know what you’ll be able to do. Everything’s predictable. You don’t have that complexity. This comes back to my instance of the tasks where your financial incentives work really well for manual tasks. My goal is to chop down 10 trees. It’s not a great goal to have, but if that was my goal…

[00:32:31] Lucie: It is! It is if you’re heating your house! Sorry, I’m sitting in a cold room.

[00:32:43] David: My goal is to chop down 10 trees in this part of the forest so I can heat my house and have sustainable forests. Yes, that’s a nice way, nice goal to have. And that goal, it could be a very sensible, SMART goal. I actually want to cut down 10 trees within a year, because if I waited 20 years to cut down the 10 trees, then maybe it won’t have the same wood, it won’t mean the same thing.

[00:33:06] Lucie: Yeah.

[00:33:07] David: And I won’t have enough wood to take me through the winter, or whatever that would mean. So there are wonderful cases of manual work, you know, managing a farm. I would guess you want SMART goals. I’m not good at managing a farm, the best I could come up with is 10 trees.

[00:33:24] Lucie: Wait, just a second though, this is the difference perhaps that managing a farm in order to have, perhaps, profit or something, that’s where you want SMART goals. But managing a farm to be sustainable, that’s perhaps where you want more principles to come in.

[00:33:39] David: Very good, very interesting. So, you want to set out a plan of how you’re going to manage the farm over the next year to be able to have a profit at the end of the year. Now, there are unpredictable things that you need to be able to deal with.

You don’t know what the weather’s going to be, you know, and so on. But, if you’re wanting to actually build a new way of farming, which is sustainable in a way that your previous approach was not. There, you’d want principles, because you don’t know how to do it yet. You’re needing to learn along the way, and you want adapting, and you want to have those intuitive cycles, and that learning, that development.

This is part of the GUIDE approach. Guiding principles. So yes, very good. I’ve been accused, I must admit, in these podcasts of not being concrete enough. I apologize if anyone’s actually listening to us. I apologize for when I’m not concrete. But there, we’ve got concrete with an example with a farm.

[00:34:35] Lucie: Well, we might have some farmers disagreeing with us. But to me, it’s helped understand it more, I think.

[00:34:40] David: Good. I apologise to anyone who thinks that cutting down those ten trees in the way I suggested was not a good idea. I know nothing about when you should cut down trees, or why, or how. You know, maybe you should have just taken some branches off, rather than cutting the tree down to heat your house. That would have been much better. Sorry. I don’t know what I’m talking about in terms of forest management.

[00:35:03] Lucie: Oh dear. Well, thank you for the discussion today, David. I think we’re going to be talking about this a lot more in different ways. It’s going to keep on coming up.

[00:35:11] David: Absolutely. Thank you for bringing this up. I think it’s been a rich and enriching discussion. So thank you.