Thursday, January 26, 2012

Set Goals as Outcomes, Not Activities

You will increase your personal and organizational effectiveness by setting your goals as “outcomes” instead of “activities.”

In my first blog about Goals, I encouraged you to set more goals.  Now we will focus on how to set them most effectively.

Setting goals as outcomes makes you focus on what you really want.  Consider the simple example of this goal:

“To receive $500,000 for the annual fund by June 30, 2012.”

This is an outcome-based goal.  It does not say that 100,000 fund-raising letters will be mailed out that year or that 10,000 phonathon calls will be made.  It is an outcome – money will be received.

When you are considering goals for a certain domain of activity – whether it is personal or organizational – ask yourself “What is the RESULT I/we really want?”  In the case above, you want money!

Once you set an outcome-based goal then it is totally fine to connect activity-based goals to them.  The problem is that, far too often, all people set are activity goals.  And just because the activity gets completed it does not mean that the desired result has been produced.

Unfortunately, outcome-based goals are all too rare in organizations.  It seems much easier to list the activities that an individual or team is going to work on rather than the specific outcomes that the activities are intended to produce.  One of the reasons that we lack outcomes is that our language around performance lacks rigor.  When a supervisor meets with their direct reports, for example, the question is typically something like “What are you working on during the upcoming quarter?” instead of “What outcomes will you produce during the upcoming quarter?” 

This lack of rigor makes it more difficult for people to be held accountable.  Completing a task is easier than completing a task that produces an agreed upon outcome.  This lack of rigor exists at the individual level, at the team level, and at the organizational level.  People resist setting outcome-based goals because activity-based goals don’t engender much accountability.  When we set personal goals, we need to overcome this.  And as supervisors, we need to require people to set outcome based goals.

Setting outcomes can be challenging for some types of work, but it can be done.  Two excellent resources that can help you in establishing goals as outcomes are Make Success Measurable (1999) by my friend Doug Smith and First Break All the Rules (Buckingham & Coffman, 1999)

Setting goals as outcomes is just the beginning.  Stay tuned for much more ahead in this series to help you set goals more effectively and therefore make even more of a Mission Impact.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Importance of Goals

Do you want to use your time in ways that are more relevant – relevant to what you care about most in your life?  Of course you do!

The best way to do this is to fully harness the power of goal setting.  It will make your life more fulfilling, more successful, and – for your organization – more effective.

This seems obvious.  And yet, when given the freedom to choose, most people do not set goals or they do not set them effectively.

This blog is first in a series on goal setting which, if you follow the guidance provided, I promise you will improve your performance personally and/or for your organization.

Today’s lesson is that you are probably not setting goals nearly enough.  You are probably barely scratching the surface.  To maximize performance you should consider setting long term goals (e.g., five – ten years) which you then break down into annual goals, quarterly goals, weekly goals, and even daily goals.  To truly maximize performance, you should do this for every important domain of your personal and work life.

“That sounds like a lot, Rob.  Sometimes I just like to go with the flow.”

Understood.  And every now and then I like to go with the flow, too.  Just remember that every time we do that, we let the “flow” take us where it wants, versus where we have intentionally chosen to go.  And sometimes we can drift far away from where we would have intentionally chosen to be.  This leads us to the first important finding from the goal setting research:*

Goals direct attention and action toward relevant activities and away from non-relevant activities.

If you want your actions to be relevant – to address some aspect of your personal or work life that you care about – then set goals!  Isn’t life too short to spend your time on actions that are irrelevant?

If you buy this and think that maybe you can be more effective if you use goal setting more, then stay tuned for the rest of the series which will be devoted to showing you the most effective ways to set goals and focus them on producing results that are most important to you.

*Locke, E. A. & Latham, G. P.  A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice Hall, 1990.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

“Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch”

One of the guest speakers we had in for the Nonprofit Strategy graduate course I taught this past fall at the University of Maryland shared this quote with the class, and it was one of the students’ favorites of the term.

I’m not sure who originated the quote, but there are lots of articles with this title and even a new book about to come out by that name.  (I have not read it yet, so I can’t make a rec – maybe later.)

Why is this such a popular quote?  Well, first of all – it is great imagery.  But most important, it is true!

Step One in strategy implementation is making sure to align your culture with your new strategy.  This has been recommended by consultants for years.  And yet, many organizations stumble here.

If your strategy is stalled, it is time to do a culture check.  Ask yourself, “Is our strategy being supported by our . . . . .”

*Standard Operating Procedures?

Example:  I know of leaders in an organization who, as part of their strategy, needed the organization to be more innovative.  But the organization had a legacy of bureaucratic systems and standard operating procedures.  The strategy was going nowhere until the CEO made major changes in systems and procedures.

Take some time to start your new year off with a culture check.  Making changes can help your organization implement your strategy more effectively and make more of a Mission Impact.