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Goal Setting

How do you set, communicate and assure your intended goals are achieved by others?  Master that with clarity and high impact and you are a genius.  If it were that easy to do, you wouldn’t be getting the big bucks.   Let’s make it even easier.

Start with a simple but powerful framework to link all your goals together.  Consider three core topics: outcomes, products and processes.  Linking each goal to a specific one of the three creates a level of consistency and simplicity that clarifies your focus. It also enables you to check that you have the balance you want.  For example, if every goal concerns process, those hearing the goals can easily conclude you don’t think outcomes or products need any direction or are unimportant.  This overemphasis on process just happens to be a common malady among leaders and tends to dampen attention to both innovation and customers, which depends on clearly articulated outcomes.

Use a framework such as the 8 Dimensions of Excellence and its attendant measures of success, to simplify your own goal-setting emphasis.  This helps you clearly see whose interests your goal is aimed to satisfy: those of the enterprise, customers or society at large.  All goals are not of equal priority and, if you don’t state what those priorities are, be prepared for others to make those decisions in a way you may not like.  Make sure you continuously emphasize which of your stated core values and strategic goals has the highest priority. The CEO of a major wood flooring company had goals for profitability and sustainability.  Those are both desired outcomes (Dimensions 5 and 1, respectively).  Managers were given goals for both but were compensated for profitability and cost-cutting.  That led to business practices that negatively impacted sustainability.  The firm was fined $13 million by several federal agencies for destroying habitat of endangered species.  The CEO took an early leave.  His goals for Dimension 5 were interpreted as of superordinate importance.  The recipient(s) of your goals should not have to guess about your relative priorities.  In other words, drive out ambiguity!

Make goals personally relevant to the recipients. At a high level, one of the most effective ways to do this is assure you have a policy in place that is aligned with the goal and the related enterprise’s core values.  For example, it is the rare modern leader who has not stated that customer satisfaction is one of his or her top priorities.  There may even be a goal to achieve “top box” satisfaction scores.  However, it is very, very common to find that there is no written customer satisfaction policy in place.  There are often plenty of other policies covering issues such as hiring, money management, purchasing and a myriad of operational concerns. With no customer satisfaction policy in place, how important can satisfaction really be?

Another way to engage others in pursuing your goal is to relate it to the product(s) an individual or group of individuals produces.  This means all work has to be defined in terms of deliverable products (nouns you can make plural).  Doing so shifts the default focus from process, activity (verbs) and operations to deliverables some customers (internal or external recipients) want.  This assures there is always a customer-focused element included in such goals.  It also makes it easier for employees, suppliers, partners or anyone else supporting the enterprise’s work to strengthen the line-of-sight connection between their work and that of the enterprise.  It creates a natural bias away from efficiencies that contribute little or nothing to effectiveness, thereby enhancing both the performance of the enterprise and the customers it seeks to satisfy.

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