Tag Archives: goals

Current Goal, Five Years Ago

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
It seems that long term goals are hard to articulate. In setting long term goals, would you agree that they are by nature more ambiguous? Should we worry less about being precise?

Response:
A long term goal, by its nature?

Five years ago, our one year goal was a five year goal. What has changed in the four years between?

The goal has taken shape, become clearer, better defined, more concrete. It has also taken turns and twists, met with contingency and unexpected, yes unintended consequences. It is now more certain, less left to chance. Murphy has less time to play.

It is the Time Span of Intention, the most important judgment for a Manager, to determine those things necessary in the future.

Ambiguous?

Precise?

Things Change

Krista had a sheepish look on her face when I asked to see her list of goals for the next three months.

“I don’t really have a list,” she said. “I mean, I know what I am supposed to do. I keep it in my head.”

“Then how do you organize your list, if you don’t have it written down? How do you share your goals with other people? How do you change and update them? Most importantly, how do you make decisions about goals?”

“Well, when I started this job, my manager explained things to me. I had a job description and I signed off on it. Is that what you mean?”

“How long ago was that?” I asked.

“About two and half years ago,” she replied.

“Your customers have changed, your market has changed, technology has changed, regulations in your industry have changed, your team has changed. Do mean that your goals have NOT changed in two and half years?”

Mama Told Me

“My mother taught me that if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself,” proclaimed Judith, repeating the sage advice she learned in her youth.

“Interesting,” I replied. “Why do you think your mother said that?”

“Well, people just never do things the way we expect them to be done.”

“And, why is that?” I wanted to know. “Why do you think they might miss the quality standard?”

“I don’t know,” Judith replied. “I tell ’em what to do, they just fall short.”

“Did you explain what the project should look like when it’s done?” I pressed.

Judith paused. “I just told them to get it done.”

“So you told them what to do, but not how well or by when?”

“Shoudn’t they be able to figure that out?” Judith sighed.

“I assume they did figure it out, it’s just what they figured is different than what you figured. Didn’t your mother also tell you if you don’t like what’s for dinner, you should say something sooner?”

A Manager’s Goal

“I thought I was very clear,” Marianne grimaced. “It was important for the team to understand and take ownership. This is a very important team goal.”

“Describe what you see?” I asked.

“Their words are supportive, but their actions are passive. There is no skip in their step, no sense of urgency, no critical eye for detail. It’s as if they are just going through the daily motions.”

“You described the project, what you are trying to accomplish. Whose goal is it?” I wanted to know.

“Well, it’s a team goal,” Marianne explained, sounding like I should have figured that out on my own. “I need the team to work together, support each other, cooperate. That’s why it’s a team goal.”

“Have you ever heard that if it’s everyone’s accountability, it’s no one’s accountability?”

That was a stumper to Marianne. A slow burn in her brain. “So, I have to single one of them out?”

“If it’s not the team’s goal, whose goal is it?” I repeated.

Marianne did not like the realization. “If it’s not the team’s goal, it must be my goal,” she flatly stated.

“And, if that’s the case, what changes?”

Whose Plan?

“You have a team meeting,” I describe. “Someone has to talk and it’s not you, because no one listens to you. So, who talks?”

“My team?” Gordon answered slowly.

“Yes,” I nodded. “You describe the essence of the vision and the performance Standards. The team sets out the action plan.”

“But my team may not know what steps to take and besides, it will take too long to get them all to agree,” Gordon protested.

I nodded and smiled. “I didn’t say that your team would get there quickly. Sometimes you have to go slow now, so you can go fast later. You need your team, involved, engaged, thinking, solving problems and making decisions. You are not going to get there by telling them what to do.”

Gordon was skeptical, “But, what if I am not getting what I want?”

“If you are not getting what you want, then you are asking the wrong questions.”

Memo Communication

“First of all, who’s goal is it?” I asked. Gordon was perplexed. His memo to the team fell flat and he needed their cooperation to complete the project.

“Well, it’s my goal, but it’s their goal. I gave it to them,” he explained.

I sat still. Gordon finally broke the silence. “Okay, it’s my goal.”

“And your job is to get your team engaged to achieve your goal. How can you do that? I gotta tell you. I looked at the project specs and the deliverables and the milestones aren’t that exciting.”

“Well, yes, but when the project is finished, overall, it will be quite an accomplishment. That’s how I described the vision in my memo,” Gordon continued.

“And you think a memo is the best way to engage your team? This is not Mission Impossible. Your memo is not as exciting as a tape that self-destructs.” I stopped and let Gordon stew for a bit. “No one listens to you, no one reads your memos. Yet, you need them to cooperate to achieve your goal. How are you going to do that?”

Appropriate Timespan of Goals

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I would like to roll out a goal-setting program for my team. Management by objectives (MBO) is a process where everyone in the company is required to set annual goals. I think it will go a long way toward results based performance.

Response:
The big failure of MBO is the focus on annual goals. If you look at the sequence below, you can see that MBO is appropriate for only a small slice of your workforce, and some of the most important goals and objectives are beyond two years.

Goals Framework and Timespan

  • S-V business unit president – longest timespan goals – five years to ten years
  • S-IV executive manager, VP – longest timespan goals – two years to five years
  • S-III manager – longest timespan goals – 12 months to two years
  • S-II supervisor – longest timespan goals – three months to 12 months
  • S-I technician, production – longest timespan goals – one day to three months

Goals and objectives should cascade through the organization starting with the longest timespan goals first, most often from the CEO. Each successive layer should have shorter timespan goals that support the goals from the layer above. You can also see, based on timespan, that longer timespan goals are more strategic (conceptual) in nature, and that as timespan falls below 3-4 years, those goals become more tactical, below 1-2 years, exclusively tactical.

While we have a general orientation toward marking our lives in annual timeframes, goals and objectives require a more specific orientation in the timespan of each role.

Leading Indicator

“They missed it again,” Isla complained. “The goal was very clear. Sometimes, the team gets close, but last month, dramatically disappointing.”

“We’re already two weeks into this month,” I nodded. “You’re the manager, what are you going to do?”

“The team better brace themselves for another speech,” she replied.

“And, how are you going to build this speech?” I asked.

“It’s pretty easy, I’m going to copy the speech from two months ago. Better get in gear, chin up, pay attention, focus.”

I waited. “Focus on what?” I finally said.

“The goal, of course. They know what the number should be,” insisted Isla.

“And, the goal comes at the end of the month, you don’t get your reports for two weeks. Isn’t it a little late by then?”

“I suppose I could get my reports out earlier,” Isla floated.

“Right now, you have a monthly number in mind, but by the time you get to the end of the month, no amount of effort will save you. And, yet, one week into each month, don’t you already know how the month will turn out?”

“You mean, like intuition?” Isla looked puzzled.

“Okay, let’s call it intuition. During the first week of each month, what is going on that gets your attention?” I wanted to know.

“You’re right. The number of sales appointments are always light during the first week, barely better the second week, improving by the third week, then crammed on the last week, right before we miss the target at the end of the month,” Isla’s eyes became distant, imagining the numbers in her head.

“So, in addition to measuring completed contracts at the end of the month,” I probed. “What would happen if you tracked sales appointments each week, while there is still time to impact closings at the end of the month?”

Planning, Goals and Objectives

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
My role has expanded recently and as a manager, I am expected to participate in our annual goal setting exercise, including setting expectations for my team. How would you suggest I approach this task? I recognize that communicating context is critical.

Response:
Congratulations. Welcome to your new role. Goal setting is actually the second step, not the first in your organizations annual planning exercise. Before you can set goals for yourself and expectations for your team, you have to understand where the organization is going. That always starts at the top of the organization, and, it appears you are now part of that circle.

  • S-V – Business Unit President, goals and objectives, 5-10 years, mission, vision.
  • S-IV – Executive Managers, goals and objectives, 2-5 years, multi-system integration.
  • S-III – Manager, goals and objectives, 1-2 years, single system, single critical path.
  • S-II – Supervisor, goals and objectives, 3-12 months, implementation, execution.
  • S-I – Production, goals and objectives, 1 day-3 months, production.
  • Each layer in the organization should be thinking about, and asking questions related to context at the next level up. It all starts at the top with Mission, Vision. I hold the Business Unit President accountable for leading that discussion, arriving at and defining some conclusions. Then, toward that Mission, Vision, each layer begins to grapple with defining the tasks and activities (the work) including stated targets for each objective.

    The approach, for you, will be to get your arms around the way your company expresses itself in these cascading sets of goals and objectives. Some companies are very formal, some informal, some are loose. Speak directly with your immediate manager.

    • How did the process go last year?
    • How were the results of last year’s process stated, or published?
    • Can you get a copy of last year’s planning output?
    • Is there a schedule for this year’s planning?
    • What preparation do most managers complete prior to the planning process?
    • What data needs to be gathered?
    • Specifically, what formal documentation do you need to produce, as a new manager in your company?
    • Does your planning need to coordinate with anyone else’s plan?
    • Does your plan need to include budget and costs?
    • What has changed during the past 12 months? In your market? In your company? In your department? With your team?
    • What changes in the future do you need to be aware of that might impact your plan?
    • How will the elements of your plan need to be broken down and communicated to your team?
    • When will your plan need to be communicated to your team?
    • What feedback from your team will you need to collect in the preparation of your plan?
    • What milestones will you track (key performance indicators) to make sure your plan stays on track?
    • How often will you review those milestones with your manager?

    That’s probably enough for now.

A Goal Sits Inside

We think success is in reaching our goals, that our goals will change us and the world around us. Deconstructing the every-year process of setting goals, we may find something more important.

What is the context in which your goals reside?

It’s not the goal that changes you, it’s the context. Context is the crucible which holds the shape of you and your success. A crucible with a defect may lead your goal astray, or allow you to accept a goal that will lead you astray. Think long about the context in which you live. Change the context, behavior follows.

For an individual, context is mindset. For an organization, context is culture.