Tag Archives: objectives

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.

Timespan of Intention

It’s January, with resolutions, goal setting, annual planning.

Most of our intentions are short-sighted. We focus on the what, not the by-when. Perhaps this year we examine the timespan of our intention as closely as the intention itself?

Instead of how many pounds can I lost by the end of Feb (when most resolutions are abandoned), we might ask what lifestyle changes we can make to add ten years to our life. What is the timespan of your intention?

Sometimes, the most important impact is not a major initiative. Sometimes, the major impact is shifting a small habit that is insidiously killing you. Or a small habit shift that will pay off in spades five years from now.

Think about your habits that support your success, habits that detract. What is the timespan of your intention?

Management Work

Ruben was stumped. “You are right. Just because we give Edmund a new title, doesn’t mean he is going to change his ways.”

“Edmund will always be Edmund, and we have to redefine his role. It’s not a matter of giving him new rules not to do this or not to do that. You have already tried that in his role as supervisor. As Lead Technician, what will be his new goals? How will you re-direct him?”

“It sounds obvious,” Ruben replied. “It starts with his job description.”

I nodded affirmative. “This is critical fundamental stuff. It’s the stuff you ignore because it sounds so simple. It’s the stuff you ignore that gets you in trouble. Stuff like goals and objectives, performance standards and holding people to account for performance.”

“I think I have a job description around here that might work,” Ruben hoped.

“Why don’t you start from scratch. As the manager, you have time span goals of approximately one year. Your annual plan has stuff in it that you are held accountable to deliver this year, and next year. If you had a supervisor, which Edmund isn’t, you would drive some of those goals down to that level, in time span appropriate chunks. For the time being, you are going to have to step into that role, review those supervisor outputs and determine the time span appropriate chunks (goals) for your new Lead Technician.”

Ruben was quiet.

“Look, do you want to lose Edmund?” I asked.

“No way,” Ruben replied. “He’s a great technician.”

“Then you have some management work to do.”

The Framework of Structure

“Organizational structure based on the timespan of related goals and objectives?” I repeated, as a question. “Has to be more complex that that.”

“Of course. Organizational structure is complex,” Pablo replied. “But, that is where is starts, looking at the level of work, goals and objectives.”

“A bit overwhelming,” I surmised. “Still looks like a large kettle of fish.”

Pablo nodded in agreement. “After the vision and mission, the founder must examine the internal functions required to kickstart the company. And, remember, this is an infant company, so there aren’t that many internal functions. Producing the product, delivering the service, finding a customer willing to pay and a way to deposit the money into the bank. That’s it, in the beginning.”

“So, in the beginning, following the vision and mission, I have to define the first functions required to produce the product or service. And in each function, determine the goals and objectives?”

“And, the ‘by-when’ of each goal will tell you the level of work required. That is the beginning of structure.”

Goal Based Structure

“If organizational structure is so important to the way things work,” I asked, “where do we start?”

“It always starts with the founder, entrepreneur, “Pablo replied. “Someone had an idea for a company, so they start it. It starts with that idea.”

“Vision, mission?”

“Yes, but immediately think about timespan,” Pablo inserted. “I know the founder thinks about where that first customer will come from, but successful thinking starts with what that organization will look like in the future. What will things look like in five years? And, that’s the start of structure.”

“How so?” I said, looking for something more specific.

“Don’t overthink this,” Pablo admonished. “Structure starts with a series of contexts, the first context exists in the imagination of the founder, long term. This is what the organization will look like in its market, including customers, competitors, vendors, supply chain, delivery chain. This is a complex context, passed along, inside the company.”

“And?”

“The next layer of context is shorter, goals and objectives 2-5 years in length. This is a cascade, a nesting inside the vision and mission.”

“And?”

The cascade continues,” Pablo explained. “The next context shorter, 1-2 years. With the next context 3-12 months, followed by the next context 1 day to 3 months. Organizational structure is simply a cascade of nested contexts within which people work.
———-
S-V – 5-10 years
S-IV – 2-5 years
S-III – 1-2 years
S-II – 3-12 months
S-I – 1 day-3 months
———-
“Layers inside the company, levels of work, all based on the timespan of their related goals and objectives.”

What Are the Decisions?

“You mean they might not be doing their best, because they are not interested in the work?” Brent repeated.

“So, tell me what is it, about the work, that is not interesting?” I asked.

“Look, we are in sales. This is a struggling economy, supply chain issues. It’s easy to not get excited.”

“You are not answering the question. Tell me about the work,” I insisted.

“We show up to an appointment, make a presentation and ask for the business.”

“That’s a good start,” I nodded. “Those are the prescribed duties. Now tell me about the decisions your salespeople have to make when they are on these appointments.”

“I don’t understand,” Brent furrowed his brow.

“I think that’s the disconnect. You are right. Showing up and making a presentation is not very interesting. Of course, that is what you have trained them to do, but that is not the work of a salesperson.”

Who Can Change the Things That Matter?

“Our goal, their goal? What’s the difference?” Brent retorted.

“The difference is your relationship with the team, their relationship with you and your understanding of who is accountable,” I replied. “When they don’t meet your goal and you come down on them, how do you think they feel? What is their attitude toward you?”

“They know I am disappointed in them.”

“No, they get pissed at you.”

“Pissed at me?” Brent sat back. “I am not the one who is supposed to be selling, they are.”

“You are right. As the leader, I expect you to devote full attention to the management of this sales team. Which is why they are pissed at you.”

“I still don’t get it. Why are they upset with me?”

“Assuming they are doing their best, and you are still falling short of your goal, who is the only one who can hire more salespeople? Who is the only one who can coordinate different marketing? Who is the only one who change the assignment of leads? Who is the only one who can change their collateral literature? Who is the only one who can set selling margins?”

Brent was silent, then finally spoke, “That would be me.”

Whose Goal Is It?

“I know how it is affecting you,” I said. “How is it affecting the team?”

“Well, when they don’t meet the goal,” Brent explained, “I sit down with them, mostly one at a time and talk to them about doubling down their effort. They are just going to have to work harder. They can tell I am disappointed in them, so I am sure it makes them feel bad.”

“Why are you disappointed in them? Are they doing their best?” I asked.

“Yes,” Brent slowly nodded. “They are doing their best, but they are missing the goal.”

“Whose goal?”

“Well, the team goal. I am just trying to help them meet the team goal.”

“What do you think the team goal is?”

“Well, we measure it in revenue, average revenue per sale, and number of new clients. The goal this month, it is supposed to be our best month of the year, is 47 new clients.”

“The goal is 47 new clients? That’s good, but I want you to understand that is not the team’s goal.”

Missing Objectives

“I am a bit confused about what to do,” Brent explained. “All of our plans this year, all of our goals, we are just so far away from where we thought we would be. I am worried.”

“What do you think happened?” I asked.

“Well, we build to order. Every project is unique. We have all the resources we need, we have all the people, in fact, too many people, but our customers are not ordering according to forecast.”

“And, what is your role in all this?”

“I’m the sales manager,” Brent replied. “It’s my job to bring in the orders. And the sales team is working really hard, but just not making any headway.”

“How many sales people on your team?”

“Eight. I mean, maybe I should have hired more. I wonder if I am even capable of running this team in this market. They aren’t making sales the way they used to. We have our goals and they are just not meeting them.”

“How is that affecting the team? Not meeting your goal?” I followed up.

“Oh, they know I am not happy. I can feel my own tension. I try not to show it, but I am sure the team can tell things are not good.”

Second Dimension of Time

“Timespan of intention,” I repeated. “Timespan of effectiveness, timespan of discretion. A new understanding of time?”

“Not at all,” Pablo replied. “Elapsed time and timespan of intention are two measures of time. But, not at all new. Greek language has two words for time, chronos, for elapsed time. And, kairos. Kairos defines time, not as an elapsed measure, but as a story. What are the three elements of every story?”

It did not take me long. “The beginning, the middle and the end,” I replied.

Kairos. What is your story? What is your intention? What is the story of your intention? What is your goal? What is the story of your goal?” Pablo asked. “That is the second dimension of time. It has everything to do with goals and objectives, important measures for every manager.”