How to Overcome Stuck Goals: Collaborate, Brainstorm, and Take Action

By Jessica Wishart

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dateTue, Jun 11, 2024 @ 07:00 AM

What Should You Do When You Receive The Gift Of Red?

We’ve all been there, it’s a few weeks into our quarter or year and either that project we intended to start is still hanging out there, untouched, or that number we set is so far off track we can’t imagine how to move it. In other words, we’re stuck. In Rhythm-speak, our goal is Red and we need to adjust, fast.


We talk a lot with our clients about the gift of Red and how creating an environment where people feel safe to forecast accurately when there’s a good chance that the goal will not finish successfully. It’s a gift to status a goal Red in the early weeks of the quarter because the team has a chance to turn things around.

What I want to focus on here is what happens next. You’ve been honest and courageous and generous enough to share that the goal is Red. What now?

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Collaborate and Plan to Get Back on Track

The first thing we recommend any time a goal is Red or Yellow is to collaborate with the team. In our software, we prompt people to leave a comment along with the goal status to share two things:

  1. Why is the goal stuck?
  2. What’s the action plan to get to Green (successful outcome)?

Sometimes, being intentional about sharing the specific steps to get back on track is all the person needs to do; especially with goals that are stuck because they haven’t been started, thinking through the plan to take the first step can be enough to get unstuck. If you know what you need to do, just sharing that with the team, and adding a few who-what-when tasks for accountability, can get things back on track.

Occasionally, goals get stuck because of dependencies with other teams; if this is the case, collaboration is the only way to get unstuck. Raise the concern and have a tough conversation about trade-offs. Capture what you’re learning so you can do a better job setting realistic goals up-front and being clear-eyed about what you need from whom by when to be successful.

But, sometimes, that “Action Plan to Green” just doesn’t come to you. And, that’s where collaboration with the team is key. If you’ve tried everything you can think of, let the team know in your comment. Someone may write back right away with a suggestion, or at least you get the team thinking so when you come to the next meeting, you can have a solid discussion about the options.


Brainstorm Possibilities

Sometimes, goals are stuck for reasons you can’t control. You can work with team members on dependencies, but if it’s an external vendor or customer or regulation change or market condition that has you stuck, you may be tempted to throw up your hands.

Rather than giving up, this can be an opportunity to dig deeper and get creative. If the project or number is truly critical, the best time to brainstorm a Plan B is before you start executing the goal. But, we don’t live in an ideal world, so the second best time is right now, when you’re stuck.

Here are some suggestions:
  • Gather the key stakeholders and team members involved.
  • Lay out strictly the facts:
    • Here’s where we are (current state).
    • Here’s where we need to be by the end of the quarter (Green goal).
  • Given the facts, ask the team to come up with 20 Ways to get to green.
    • After all the ideas are out there, ask everyone to vote on the top 3.
    • Pick an idea or two to test out.

You could also try “6 Thinking Hats” or another structured brainstorming exercise, or our Breakthrough to Green Tool. If the team is truly stuck, maybe rather than coming up with ideas to solve the problem, ask them to think about who has solved the problem or a similar one before. Is there someone who could coach you or who you could hire or just learn about to get ideas?

If you use the Rhythm Software, you can bounce ideas off our Ask Patrick AI-powered business coach. Ask Patrick will nudge you if your goals are Red or not started for a few weeks, and then offer brainstorming help to get your problem-solving juices flowing.

Ask Patrick AI Feature


Act on Adjustments

You should always capture at least a few tasks - specific next steps - to move forward. It could be as simple as calling an advisor tomorrow and reporting back what you learn to the team. Even if the tasks aren’t necessarily the solution, you need to stay accountable to take the next steps. The best way to ensure you stay stuck is to keep statusing Red week after week and changing nothing about your execution.

Determine a plan to adjust, document it, and stay accountable for taking action, and sharing learnings with the team. Often, there’s a lot more valuable information to learn from a stuck goal than one that goes off as planned, so relish this opportunity to push yourself and your team to solve the tough problems and get better next time.

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In Conclusion

Recognizing and addressing Red goals early on is a powerful strategy that can transform potential failures into opportunities for growth and success. By fostering a culture of transparency and collaboration, teams can leverage the "gift of Red" to make necessary adjustments before it's too late. The process of brainstorming, collaborating, and acting on adjustments not only helps in getting projects back on track but also strengthens the team's problem-solving capabilities and resilience. Embrace the challenges, communicate openly, and take proactive steps to ensure your goals move from Red to Green, leading your team to achieve remarkable outcomes.


Jessica Wishart is a Sr. Product Manager at Rhythm Systems, who collaborates with our amazing customers and internal teams to understand problems, brainstorm possibilities, and launch product solutions. Jessica's background in counseling enables her to truly listen and empathize with the wants and needs of our customers and the market.

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Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Jessica Wishart


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images