Modern Goal Setting for the Real World

Leaders often ask me whether goal-setting should be a top-down exercise done by the senior leadership team, or a bottom-up approach involving the entire organization. The answer is “yes”. We find that goal-setting works best when the leadership team defines a future vision and employees are involved in creating the ‘how’. It sounds simple, but few companies build their plan this way. 

Most organizations define outcomes and stop planning. This is a huge mistake. We cannot manage outcomes – we can only manage the underlying work. Once we have defined outcomes, we now need to clarify ‘how’ we will complete the work. This is where the top-down approach from leaders ends and the bottom-up involvement of employees begins.

Employees, not leaders, should decide if goals are truly SMART

While almost every leader is familiar with setting SMART goals, if you ask 10 executives what the acronym stands for you will get a variety of answers. If we go back to the original definition, the “A” stands for Assignable – who will do the work. The “R” stands for Realistic – is the goal realistic with the resources that we have available. These are critical elements of truly ‘Complete Goals’ and employees understand the underlying work better than executives. It is employees who should decide whether goals are truly SMART, not people sitting miles away in a boardroom.

Involve employees to establish 'supporting lines'

While OKRs are great for defining outcomes, like other goal-setting methods, they fall short when it comes to defining the work. This is important because we cannot manage outcomes – we can only manage the work. OKRs are a great concept from a different era. Long gone are the days of efficient ‘command and control’ management. In our last post we mentioned the clarity and tangibility of OKRs used by Intel in the 1970s to measure progress. But that’s the thing – they were used in the ‘70s to deal with an urgent business situation – and emergencies are one of the only times that command and control works. There’s no time for a planning offsite to discuss the best way to fight a fire that has already engulfed a building.

SupportingLines embraces cross-functional complexity

The major benefit of SupportingLines is that we embrace and clarify cross-functional complexity. Planning requires leaders to see supporting lines, not reporting lines™. Reporting lines are important for administration and order, but they have little or nothing to do with the way we accomplish our most important goals. The top organizational goals are always cross-functional, and that is what makes them so hard to deliver.

Involve your employees in planning. Our unique approach to goal-setting brings your employees (as many as possible) directly into the process of deciding if the goals are SMART. Employees help us confirm who should do the work (assignable) and what resources they will need to achieve the targets (realistic). 

Achieve more goals with SupportingLines. If you would like to learn more about our unique, innovative approach to planning check out our Help Teams Align & Collaborate course in the SupportingLines Cloud.

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith

Jeff is the Founder & CEO of SupportingLines. He is also a certified Master Corporate Executive Coach, seasoned C-suite business leader and yoga instructor.

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