Setting goals for fast moving markets and change initiatives

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Setting organizational and individual goal is easiest when markets are stable. But most businesses face a different reality for the planning and definition of goals. A reality where the environment is dynamic and goals need to keep up with the pace of market development.

Classic goal setting

Classic goal setting designed around yearly goals and quarterly follow-up was the norm. Leaders had visibility over a stable market at least 12 months out. Tracking of progress once per quarter was enough.  In this environment larger goals are broken down in steps to reach the smallest unit and each individual was common. Further the goals were often defined in the year prior to execution.  The result was often great visibility over the first 6 months and less so in the last half of the year. Yearly goals and year-long execution windows often resulted in high expectations on output at the end of the year. These goals will not go away but can co-exist with goals on operational level that allow an organization to move faster.

Goal and follow-up for fast moving initiatives

For fast moving markets you need stronger focus and shorter planning cycles. A good starting point is 5 goals representing the priorities the coming 3 months. By restricting the goals to 5 you need to make priorities and active decisions on where to put focus. Listing your goals in strict priority order increases your focus even further. By reducing the execution window from 12 to 3 months you add focus and intensity to the goal setting. With a 3 month horizon you also have the opportunity to change the goals quarterly or changing the priority within the team. And with 5 goals you can secure they all are relevant at any moment. With these initiatives you have created the sense of urgency and focus you need to drive your organization forward.

The second element is to review how often you track and follow up the progress towards the goal. With quarterly goals you should consider weekly follow-up. Your team secures the goal execution with specifics on actions. With well-defined goals in place the next step is to guide the team on how to achieve them. With examples on activities and behaviors for each goal you can be clearer in coaching the team closer to success. A simple and straight forward approach is to define;

  • What do we want to do more of – to secure we can reach the goal
  • What do we want to do less of – to free up time for what matters the most.
  • What is should we continue to do – stick to proven success recipes

The purpose of this step is to provide granularity to the goals. It also serves the purpose of guiding the team members about what to do less of. Without taking away less productive activities you restrict the possibility to reach the goals.

Involve team in outlining obstacles AND ways around them

An integrated part of the goal setting is to define obstacles in reaching them and how to circumvent them. If there are no material obstacles identified the goals are likely set to low. With challenging goals an important part of the goal setting is to walk through the obstacles. Recognizing obstacles exists as a base for taking action. Not restrict the task to an the activity of just listing obstacles. For each obstacle you have identified you need to define possible mitigations. Is the best option to go above, around or under identified obstacles?

Discussion of the mitigations sends strong signals you are serious about reaching the goals. Low performing organizations tends to be good at defining obstacles. More as an excuse for not delivering rather than as valuable insights on what the team need to attack. By working with obstacles you have also laid the foundation to become a more learning. People learn better from challenges and obstacles rather than straight roads.

Defining quarterly goals for my team

Good questions for you as a team leader to work through when outlining a goal model for

  1. What is a suitable goal horizon and follow-up frequency – The suggested quarterly goals and weekly follow-up might need to be adjusted.
  2. Do we have a shared view of the 5 priorities for the next quarter – Most teams have a view what they are but have not defined the priority order
  3. Can our team operate with 80% correct goals with an opportunity to revise soon – almost correct goal and execution now, deliver better results than perfect goals executed in the future.
  4. Do we have a clear idea what we should do more and less of – the team need to have a clear view of this refined focus.
  5. How do we work with obstacles and mitigations today – finding mitigations is a very important part of securing you can reach high gaols.
  6. How can I motivate the individuals in the team to drive their personal contribution with weekly goals – if the team should succeed consistently every quarter, we need individuals to deliver weekly.

Setting organizational and individual goal is easies when markets are stable and change is a small part of your execution challenges. The art of goal setting for most of us is taken to a new level. A scenario where goals need to be set for fast moving markets will be the new norm.

Additional reading suggestions

One thought on “Setting goals for fast moving markets and change initiatives

  1. Pingback: Writing template – Quarterly goals for execution of strategic priorities | Tweeter Linder

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