Goal setting is one of the areas of running a business that few managers or employees get any help on. It is just assumed you are going to be naturally great at it. As you would expect, assumption leads to obvious variances in quality. Does it matter? The answer is it does, and much more than you would think.
Why set goals?
This is probably a question you have never asked yourself or considered in any depth. Luckily researchers and academics have. What they found is this:
- Goals focus our efforts towards relevant activities and away from irrelevant activities.
- Hard goals increase our focus and effort over easy to achieve goals.
- Goals prolong our efforts and quickly achieved goals are of less value.
- Hard goals increase our need to upskill, learn, collaborate and innovate.
What does great goal setting look like?
So one of the key findings was the importance of being ambitious and setting hard goals. There are a few other best practices that managers need to consider are:
- Too many goals dilute focus and cause stress and conflict – less is more.
- Measurement matters – goals to achieve things that don’t matter or reflect a real
Improvement in what needs to be improved is not a good idea.
Don’t mix business-as-usual with your goals that are priorities for improvement – this reduces clarity on what matters most.
- Lead and supporting roles are needed – not everyone can be a goal owner, most employees are playing a supporting role.
- The company team succeeds, not the individual – goal achievement is better when it’s a team game which is why goals and appraisals are loosely linked but not how employees’ contributions are recognised.
- Silos are becoming a thing of the past – talk about goals, commit to the goals that matter, and let everyone see everyone else’s goals and progress.
- Set and forget is not how high performing teams work – weekly check-ins and constant executional realignment around goals is what great looks like.
Which goal-setting framework?
Every business, regardless of how you choose to set goals, is going to need KPIs. These KPIs need to be at the company and team level and will tell you how you’re doing. Some of your KPIs will be performant and therefore ‘good enough’. Some will need improving. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that everything needs to be improved all of the time. Many do.
How you then use the platform of KPI and move to goal setting and management is dependent on what you’ve used until now, your company size and culture. There are two main candidates to choose from. OKRs which stands for Objectives and Key Results, and SMART goals. There are similarities and differences. Here is more information on the difference between OKR vs SMART.
Commitment, training and support
Whenever you’re looking to change you need to commit to the journey. If you want to evolve how you set goals you are going to evolve a key business process and acquire a new set of valuable skills. These skills can be obtained from a book but books are broad and generalist. What is best is coaching. You can learn more about OKR coaching here.
Results are never immediate as change takes time, as does acquiring new behaviours and habits. With something as valuable;e as goal setting and weekly check-ins you need to move from having to think hard about them to just doing them without much thought. At this point, you will have added them to your culture and standard operating procedures.
The value in this is wide-reaching. Right now though the biggest value is probably going to be your ability to deal with change, bumps in the road like COVID, and the management of remote or hybrid workforces.