Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Goals are a central concept in C2/GOMA and, even at its most basic level, one must have a deep understanding of goals. Furthermore, while there are many definitions of what a goal is--from idealistic and philosophical to narrow and specialized--most of them are pretty useless for automation. We need something concrete and universal at the same time. For C2/GOMA I use the following definition:

“A goal is a projected state of affairs that a person or a system plans or intends to achieve.”

Let’s analyze that definition very carefully, word by word:

  • “Goal is a … state.” - Read it again with “goal” meaning same as “state.” What kind of state? - A state of a system, an environment, or both. How is that state defined? - Through a set of characteristics/parameters of elements that compose the system or environment. (This moment is crucial to all our future efforts to formalize goals and goal management!)
  • “A projected state” - A future, possible, probable, or predicted state.
  • “Of affairs” - Actions, efforts, or changes.
  • “A person or a system.” “A person” means humans. “A system” can mean anything. It can be an automated system, a robot, a microcontroller, a human body, or a molecular structure.
  • “Plans” - Goals that can be set and managed explicitly by a person or system.
  • “Or intends” - Goals of a person or system that may only be implicit.
  • “To achieve” - The state is a desired end result. This last phrase also means that the actions or changes performed by a person or system are not chaotic, but are instead directed and acted upon.

As you can see, this definition is highly universal. It can be applied anywhere, to any directed actions or targeted changes. It is not specific to only humans, and it doesn’t say if goals must be set consciously or unconsciously at a behavioral, preset, or hardwired level.

At the same time, this definition is quite concrete. It says that goal is a projected and desired state, which we can read as “a set of desired characteristics/parameters of a system and/or environment elements that is reached with targeted activities and changes.” A goal with this definition is something we can formalize and use to create automation.

Now, if you look around, you can see goals everywhere. They are just called by different terms:

Objectives, missions, strategies, policies, initiatives, projects, commands, orders, tasks, jobs, activities, actions, control signals, etc....

But in every case there is a future and desired state. That state can be big (organizational/departmental) or small (personal/individual). It can be in the near future (immediate/short-term) or far future (mid- to long-term). And people, organizations, or automated systems have to do something to achieve it.

Of course, we have not invented goals. They are everywhere, and they have been there forever. We just found that, whether its acknowledged or not, goals stand behind all directed activities and non-chaotic changes. If we assume that most changes in an organization are non-chaotic, then they must be goal-driven. With our concrete and universal definition of goals, C2/GOMA goals can be formally stated and used for automation.

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