Ross Hagan

Community Focused Cultivation - Defining actions

January 4, 2022

In the last article we got a little high brow and philosophical about 'Community focused cultivation'. What it's really about is understanding where people want to go, and spending some time having a conversation with some real outcomes on moving them towards that destination.

Time to get into the real actions - so grab a miro board, some post-it notes, or some other visual tool you like and follow along.

Vision recap

There's a person with a particular set of skills, responsibilities and behaviours that you want to be. Setting a vision of what that looks like is a great first step to making it a reality.

Given our skills are most useful when they're applied, they're going to apply to something or have meaning for an end user. An audience, a technology, a particular domain. Bear that audience in mind when you define a vision and it starts to have a more concrete destination in mind.

I'll use a specific example here, but hope you will translate this to your own context. Let's use this as a baseline example:

Vision: The healthcare community can benefit from people who are able to coordinate and process large volumes of data to predict illness and support clinical decisions.

Defining Goals

Once a vision is in place we break it down to Goals. Goals aren't necessarily concrete just yet, but represent an overarching outcome.

In this case, what are the outcomes that would best make that vision a reality? Well, we've got a bit in the vision about coordinating and processing large volumes of data. So what would be a good outcome to represent that? Seems like having data engineering skills and experience is a pretty solid start.

Goal: experience with data engineering

It might be useful to write a short pitch to yourself on why that's useful - what's the community going to gain?

Someone with experience in data engineering can help improve the delivery of meaningful data for clinical evaluation that supports better outcomes for patients

If it's a new area of skill entirely this might help keep you motivated on why you're doing what you're doing.

Goal generation is ultimately about digging into the vision, picking it apart and asking questions about it. It might even lead to reshaping the Vision which is a happy outcome too!

Goals generate actions

Now it's time to get really specific. What can you do to make that goal a reality?

Actions that work for you

Let's break down the experience with data engineering goal as an example.

Maybe you're not in a position to have data engineering be part of your day-to-day work, so looking at courses that give you hands-on project work, or open source contributions is a good next step. Maybe an action is to talk to data engineers, especially in your target community and get a list of things they wish they'd known starting out!

Action: Take the Udacity Data Engineering Nanodegree so that I have a broad understanding of concepts and patterns and hands-on project experience to apply in new contexts

With a specific action, especially one with a good reason why, you have a concrete next step.

Some will be much bigger actions than others in terms of time or other investment. That's a great place to be by the end of generating actions. If they're all super big then it's hard to get started and sustain them.

Keep actions concrete

You might have encountered SMART goals in the past, we're just calling them actions here, but take a look back over what you've generated. Compare them against whether they are:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time bound

Rank your actions

Now you can gather up those actions under your goal and rank them. Once they're all SMART, you've maybe still got a big old list of actions to take. Some good dimensions to rank against are:

  1. Expected value to the goal
  2. Time needed
  3. Hierarchy of need, do I need to do X action first?
  4. Theoretical versus concrete gain - am I getting to apply the theory?

Trim back any that you now feel are redundant, that contain hollow actions with no real improvement towards your goal, or those that you'll never realistically get to.

After ranking them, you should naturally have a rough ordering, you might even have a few sequential actions to work through.

Start simple - one goal, one action

If you've broken down other goals and other actions, you might be getting pretty overwhelmed.

So what does it look like if you take the top one or two actions from each goal?

Have you got things you can do this week, this month, this year? Mark the ones you'll act on next.

Don't go it alone

While this can be an exercise you do yourself, and keep only to yourself, turning to a real person can be very helpful. Find a good coach, or cultivator, and they should be able to talk through these things without pressing their own agenda or biasing with their past experience.

Personally, I love running this exercise with people. In a non-judgmental environment, you get to learn what motivates others, and maybe even learn how you can directly help them get there.

No vision, no problem!

A common theme especially in people really early in their career can be a response like "I don't have a vision!"... but that is ok!!

People at every phase of life are constantly re-evaluating what's right for them in their current context.

Don't come away feeling directionless or lacking ambition. Shape your vision to be just that - trying things out that would define a vision. None of this is fixed, and you'll likely have a different view of what you want to do in 6 months, 12 months, or longer.


By the end of this you've hopefully got: a high level vision, goals representing outcomes that get you towards that goal, and actions under each goal.

We've not talked about measuring them, or managing them over time. We'll come back to that next time.

If nothing else, I hope all this made you think about what works for you. That getting to the 'big' vision is just a series of next steps, taking action, and most of all collaborating with people. Be open about stating where you're going. There's loads of us out there who really love to help people get where they want to go, so be vocal and the right people will champion you along!

See also

Read more about SMART goals to help break them down and focus them more.