How do I pick the right goals? Where should an individual look to find goals and objectives?
There are several areas that will generate ideas for possible goals:
- The organization's vision and values statement or mission statement
- Objectives from previous review period
- Critical job responsibilities
- Your boss's objectives
- Division/department plans and strategies
- Discussions with colleagues /customers/internal clients
- Organizational problems and opportunities
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Mission Statement. Too often companies don't make a clear connection between their mission statement or vision and values and their performance management process. The result is that employees feel that the lofty vision or mission statements are just window dressing and don't have anything to do with their day-to-day jobs. Cynicism results.
In setting objectives, the first place to look for ideas and inspiration is the organization's mission statement or vision and values statement. Reviewing these documents will suggest areas in which objectives can be set that further the company's overall mission.
Only if employees are held accountable for behaving in the way described by their organization's vision and values or mission statement in their annual performance review, will they understand that the sentiments and attitudes expressed genuinely reflect the belief of their leaders about what is really important.
Objectives from a Previous Review Period. If the individual set objectives during a prior performance review discussion, these objectives should be considered for inclusion. And if the last year's performance review pointed out any areas where improvement or development are necessary, these would be prime targets for setting goals and objectives for the upcoming review period.
Your Boss's Objectives. Including the results that one's boss considers to be important among your objectives is not only a wise political move, it also helps ensure organizational alignment of all objectives.
Division/Department Goals. The goals of the individual's division, department, or work unit may be the most important source of objectives. If objectives or strategic plans have been established at a higher level, every individual in that work unit should have objectives that support the overall plan.
Discussions with Customers and Others. Another rich source for finding important objectives is an analysis of the customers the individual serves and the products and services provided to each customer.
Everybody (not just salespeople) has customers. Your boss and your direct reports (if you have supervisory responsibility) will always be customers for your work. If you're in a staff job, the line managers you serve are also your customers. Your peers and colleagues may be customers, too.
Start by identifying who all of your customers are. They are the people to whom you provide a product or service. Then analyze what each of your customers expects of you (an easy way to discover what they want of you is to ask them). Then figure out where you could improve your products or services to better support your customers. Those will be your goals and objectives.
Problems. Finally, look at the places where the organization is experiencing problems. Probably every employee of a company can see areas where improvements can be made; where the organization, or department, or job can be more effective. These are obvious sources of objectives.
How should a goal statement be written?
Here are some suggestions on creating workable goal statements:
- Start with an action verb.
- Identify a single key result for each objective.
- Identify costsdollars, time, materials, equipment.
- State verifiable criteria that will demonstrate that the goal has been achieved.
- Ensure that the goal is controllable by the individual.
- Determine the relative goal priorities.
- Determine how progress will be measured and how feedback will be provided and obtained.
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Good goal statements begin with verbs: reduce, expand, write, eliminate, increase, arrange, create, and thousands of others. Start by thinking about the action that you're going to take.
Next, identify the outcome that will be achieved as a result of the action. Here are some examples:
- Reduce the number of customer complaints by 6 percent.
- Expand the number of choices available on the dial-up program from six to eleven.
- Write an instructional manual on the Associated brand armature.
- Eliminate one level of management in the Tyrone division.
- Increase customer satisfaction.
- Arrange three alternative distribution methods for the Ashford water purifier.
- Create an Internet-based applicant tracking system.
The sample objectives are good starts, but they're not ready for prime time yet. Next, consider whether there are any constraints or restrictions that must be met in meeting the goals. It may be that you want to "eliminate one level of management in the Tyrone division without adversely affecting employee morale." You may need to "write an instructional manual on the Associated brand armature within ninety days prior to its public release."
Be cautious of tasks or activities masquerading as goals. For example, a directive to "make ten calls on prospective clients" might seem like a reasonably well-stated goal, but it's actually an activity. What is the outcome of these calls? That's what the goal should focus on. Be careful not to use measures like "number of training programs attended." Instead, focus on what the individual did differently as a result of attending the training programs. Concentrate on the results of the behaviors, not the behaviors themselves.
How will you know that the objective has been achieved? Some of the sample goals have their measures already identified: "Reduce the number of customer complaints by 6 percent" and "Expand the number of choices available on the dial-up program from six to eleven." Others need to have measures added: "Increase customer satisfaction by increasing the number of repeat customers by 4 percent and decreasing customer returns by 12 percent."
Note that the instructions do not require the objective-setter to find numerical measures to assess how well the objective has been met. Instead, they direct the individual to seek verifiable criteria that will demonstrate that the goal has been achieved. For some goals the numeric measures may be unavailable. Consider this goal: "Design a waiting room environment that creates a feeling in patients of professional excellence and personal concern." There may be no quantitative measures to evaluate the individual's performance, but that doesn't mean that measures themselves are nonexistent. The measures in this case are factors such as reduced patient anxiety reported by physicians and the creation of a "relaxed mood among patients in the waiting room, as judged by senior staffers."
Numbers are easy to verify. That is why quantitative, countable, numeric measures are better than descriptive onesthey are easier to verify. However, when assessing the quality of an individual's performance, quantifiable measures are often scarce, and descriptive measures are sufficient.
Sometimes in the quest for numerical, quantifiable goals, people end up measuring things that aren't important or produce unintended consequences. A goal of "answering all calls in three rings or fewer" isn't nearly as important as "presenting a genuinely gracious telephone experience."
Note the goal statement that says: "Ensure that the goal is controllable by the individual." It is difficult to hold people accountable for results that are outside their control. While total control may be absent, individuals frequently have a great deal of influence over achievement of an objective. This is particularly true in dealing with high-level, sophisticated jobs. It is appropriate for the manager to say to the individual, "Jack, I know you may not have total control over this outcome. However, in a job like this you do have a lot of influence and it is important to have someone in this position who can deliver the goods."
Not all goals and objectives are equally important. That's why it's wise to indicate the relative importance of various goals. Some organizations require a formal allocation of one hundred points to all of the goals that are set; others use an A-B-C system. Regardless of whether your company requires formal weighting of goals (most don't), be sure to discuss the relative importance of the different goals during the performance-planning meeting.