Setting the Right Kind of Goals

Are you setting the right goals?At the beginning of any year, many businesses sit down and decide on plans and goals for the rest of the year. This usually involves a lengthy process where high-level goals are established for the business, and then those goals are cascaded down to other members of the organization. Setting goals is a good thing. Executing on these goals is even better.

What is the difference between organizations that are successful on following through on their goals, and the ones that are not? It comes down to a few things:

–  Are your people individually responsible to take ownership and follow through on what they have committed to do?
–  Is there a mechanism in place to hold others accountable for the commitments they make?
–  Have you hired the right people in the first place?

At a recent presentation I attended, Brad Kolar explained a key difference when following up on goals and holding people accountable. Two key points from his material really resonated with me:

1. Goals should be focused on outcomes, not on activity

Many SMART goals are exactly the opposite. They aren’t focused on a result. What is the outcome or desired result of setting your goal? What do you want to achieve? Too many organizations focus on the activities related to goals rather than the outcomes. Software is a great example of this. If you have set a goal to implement a new software system, you are focusing on the wrong thing. What is the expected outcome of implementing software? How will you measure it? If you’re focused on the outcome, then you can decide the best process for making that happen, and if it’s not working, you have the ability to change course and still meet the desired result.

2. Status reports are not productive

Status updates on goals need to be specific and address the things that aren’t on target FIRST. Most people focus their updates on things that are working well, and will gloss over activities that are not on target or are past due. Another common problem is that people are too vague and don’t make firm commitments. Updates should start with those goals at risk, specific action steps to be taken, and dates and persons responsible for getting those done. When it’s time to follow up, you start with those activities first. Holding others accountable is not about yelling or threatening, it’s about getting granular about specific action steps that need to be taken, and assigning due dates and owners of those items.

Take a look at the goals you have set for your organization for this year. Are they outcome focused? If not, you need to rewrite them with a result in mind, and a way to measure.

Don’t have written goals? That’s a mistake, too. For more information about how we can help you set meaningful goals for your business, contact me.


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