Making Goal Setting Work

GoalsA few comments and questions came in after last week’s post on goal setting. A reoccurring theme related to “how do I actually set up the goal setting process in my organization?” A few readers felt that goal setting would help improve their organization, but did not know where to start.   Although, like many areas of managing people, no single approach fits every organization, some practices stand out compared to others.   Some of the basic practices include:

  • Ensure that the process supports business objectives

Any initiative in an organization should be tested by showing its linkage to producing desired business objectives and its preference over other alternatives that produce a similar result.   If the effort does not result in tangible business objectives, it is better to not waste the time and effort.

  • Include all employees

Every employee provides an element of the overall performance.  By including all levels in your organization, you engage the entire staffing in realizing the organizational mission and illuminate the value of each individual contribution.

  • Link to compensation

If we desire to have employees allocate time and effort to goals, then self-interest needs to be a component of the process.  In other words, I have to be able to answer, “What is in it for me?”   The most successful goal setting systems provide a reasonable reward for goal attainment.

  • Make the results and rewards transparent

Knowing how we are doing, what we succeeded at, and where we could improve are natural human needs. Accomplishments should be celebrated and those that exceed expectations should receive public recognition.

  • Ensure that the goals motivate by design

For goals to be meaningful, they should be three to five in number, link to specific outcome metrics, combine self-interest with organizational interest, and require us to push ourselves to realize.

  • Hold managers accountable for using the system

We all deal with the demands on our time outpacing the supply.  However, for a goal setting process to impact organizational performance, it has to be made a priority.  Managers have to believe in the system and use it on a regular basis.  If managers are committed to it, employees will be as well.

It takes a few years to institutionalize the process and realize tangible performance gains, so have patience.



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