How can involvement of the team in department goal setting and planning improve the likelihood of achieving the plans?

Where teamwork is practiced, members often participate actively in setting group goals relating either to their operation or the corporation as a whole. Hammering out the goals collectively not only utilizes the wisdom of the entire group but also secures ownership to the group goals. People are more likely to support that to which they have contributed and created than that which has been handed down from on high.

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When the team is part of the problem-solving effort, as well as planning process, you won't hear members make statements like, "I didn't think this would really work" or "That's what our manager wanted so I agreed, but I knew this wouldn't work." Further, because goals have been set as a group, even individual goals, one person's goals are not in conflict with another team member's.

When goals are set as a group, it is clear to all members who is responsible for what. In traditional organizations in which team-building is neglected, you may find problems such as overlapping responsibility or even unassigned responsibility, problems unlikely to occur when the group as a whole sits down and makes plans and then individual members commit to aspects of the plan.

How can I engage employees in this process?

When it comes to pinning down who is responsible for what, you should hold one or more team planning sessions to ensure that team responsibilities have been clarified. The team may even develop a chart that is displayed in the workspace. That chart identifies each responsibility, the name of the person expected to complete the assignment, the date for completion, and any internal or external group support each member will need to complete his or her tasks. Tasks are listed on the vertical axis of the chart and team members and their responsibilities can be listed on the horizontal axis.

In anticipation of the planning or goal-setting session, you should be sure that you can:

Be clear on management's planned direction for the organization. Understand the corporate vision and be prepared to explain it to your employees.

Define your department's role in the organization. Identify what your department has traditionally been doing and also any possible expanded role for the department, as envisioned by you and top management.

Make an outline of all points you want to cover during the meeting. While your ideas may be revised by the input of others during the meeting, you need to go into the goal-setting or planning meeting with a clear vision of how the group will support senior management's objectives and the corporate mission.

Have a large writing board on which you can list suggestions from your employees. Be prepared to list all the ideas that the group suggests, then pare them down to four or five objectives or goals for the year.

Prepare your employees before the meeting. Ask them to think about the present and future goals of the department and to be ready to discuss them at the meeting.

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At the meeting itself, you need to explain management's corporate vision, values, and goals. During the first hour or so, you will spend planning and reviewing corporate objectives to set the stage for the subsequent discussion of how the group can contribute to achievement of those goals. Once the group is clear about the corporate objectives or goals, it can write a mission statement that describes the department's mission in relationship to the organization's. Then you, together with your staff, can determine department objectives that will support the corporate objectives and are in keeping with both the corporate and department mission.

The best-written goals reflect the SMART model; that is, they are:

Specific. They state specifically what will be accomplished. Measurable. They are quantifiable, either by cost savings or profit contribution. Attainable. They are achievable, even if it takes a little stretch. Realistic. The work group believes it can achieve the objectives it has set.

Time sensitive. A date is set by which time the objective or goal is to be achieved.

As the group identifies the goals, you will be writing these down. None should be evaluated until the group has finished its creative thinking. Then you want to work with the group to choose three or four goals to pursue—or whatever number is realistic.

To make the choice, your group should begin by attempting to link some of the goals on the flipchart, reducing the number from which they choose to focus their attention on. Goals will be defined according to their relationship to the corporate vision or mission, but it is equally important that the group consider the resources each goal will require and whether the organization can expend those resources—from dollars to people's time, to the purchase of new equipment—to achieve the goal.

Once the team chooses those goals on which to work, it then needs to develop action plans that will enable it to achieve each of its objectives. You and your staff may empower a member of the group to research an area with potential for greater profitability or to move ahead to produce a new product service, or to cut costs. If more than one person may be involved in achieving the goal, the team might develop a flow chart, with schedule and specific assignments for each staff member. The flow chart diagrams each of the actions to be taken and the sequence in which they must occur. Names of specific staff members are placed beside each task in the flow chart.

Some action plans are best developed by forward scheduling, that is, planning moves from start-up to completion date. Backward scheduling begins with a completion date, and the work group works out how it will finish the project and achieve its objectives by that time.

Afterward, while writing up the goal-setting session, you should evaluate the final plans. To help in this review, ask yourself these questions:

- Does the plan contribute to the achievement of the department goals and, therefore, corporate goals?

- Are the underlying assumptions valid?

- Is it clear what is to be done and why?

- Is it clear who will be responsible for the tasks that make up the plan?

- Is the plan feasible? If it isn't, how can it be made feasible?

- How can the plan's progress be monitored to determine if it is succeeding?

- Is the cost of implementation higher than payback?

- How will we measure the plan's success?

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