At ‘Accomplishment’ book talk Sir Michael Barber speaks on planning for achievement

Jan. 12, 2022, 10:17 p.m.

Every day, both people and governments can benefit from the same goal-setting strategies, argued Sir Michael Barber at a Tuesday event about his book “Accomplishment.”

Founder of the global advisory firm, Delivery Associates, Barber has advised governments and organizations over the years on implementing large-scale changes, including education reform. Stemming directly from insights gained through his work, Barber’s new book “Accomplishment” claims that achieving ambitious goals requires careful planning and intense determination. The event was hosted by the Freeman Spogli Institute’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.

“What I discovered over time was that the characteristics of accomplishment that worked in governments were replicated very closely in elite sport, in business, in art, in science and indeed can be replicated in your own personal goals,” Barber said.

Barber highlighted combating climate change as a key international goal. Based on his expertise in goal-setting, Barber called on serious planning, political will, long-term solutions, data transparency and citizen engagement as necessary steps in addressing climate issues.

“Very few people know how they’re going to go about achieving their climate change goals, or what money they’ll need or if they get the money, what they’ll do with it,” Barber said. 

All accomplishments require careful planning, Barber argued. He said that you should understand the entirety of a challenge’s demands before diving in — Barber likened this to cyclists going through the map of Tour de France and analyzing each of its demands before the marathon begins. Barber also argued that a corrupt government directly interferes with accomplishing virtuous goals, hence it is important to start your journey with a good team.

Active planning is as important as pre-planning, according to Barber. He told the audience to continue monitoring their plan, making adjustments as necessary, throughout their endeavors. Even though hardships alter progress, Barber encouraged listeners to stick to their end goals

“It requires discipline and vigilance. But if we did all to improve our capacity at every level to accomplish ambitious and challenging things, I think we’d have a really good chance of making the world a better place,” Barber said.

As an example, Barber walked through a project he worked on in Pakistan on education development. A great flood interrupted the country’s plans, but he pushed for the group to continue on with their work.

“When you accomplish things, what comes next is really important. Especially for governments. Because the job’s never done, because the world changes all the time; you get new threats, new issues arise all the time. You will find the agenda has moved on, and you can’t just say well we’ve done that now and sit back” Barber said.

Leyla Yilmaz '25 is a writer for the Arts & Life section. She is from Istanbul, Turkey and a prospective Biology major who enjoys frequent trips to the bookstore and collecting cacti. Contact the Daily's Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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