When a new goal is announced for a team, the obvious question is, “How are we going to get there?” A multi-day strategy session is held to brainstorm, explore alternatives, and establish objectives. Action plans are developed, team assignments are made, and the whole process is documented in detail and in color. Everyone is proud of their strategy, and they were energized throughout the process.
A few months later, the everyday demands of work have crept back in, and the goal has moved to the fringes. It’s still there but doesn’t get as much attention, and it never gets the traction needed to accomplish it.
Strategy is great and necessary, but it’s just a tool to achieve the result (the goal). By itself, it can become a distraction from the real work of accomplishment. It’s like riding an exercise bike at the gym; there’s plenty of activity, and everyone sweats a lot, but you end up in the same place you started.
There are several reasons that teams don’t achieve their goals:
- There are too many goals.
- The goals aren’t specific enough to know when you’ve reached them (“Make more money” vs. “Increase revenue by $50K by July 1”).
- The goals aren’t inspiring for the team members.
- Nobody’s tracking anything.
- There are no individual action plans leading to the goal.
- Urgent things distract everyone from important goal-related things.
- There’s no celebration when milestones are reached.
Consider these processes to make it more likely that goals are consistently achieved:
Set goals people care about. Discuss them with the team before finalizing to get their input and energy.
Put the goals in writing and make them visible. Display the goal in public so they can be easily seen and referenced often.
Measure more than just the final number. Don’t just look at how close you are to the finish line; measure other factors: how the team is working together, how related processes are improving, how team members are handling burnout, etc.
Be realistic in your strategy. It’s good to be optimistic but consider various risks that could occur: things taking longer than expected, changes in costs, unavailability of resources, stress, morale issues, etc.
Be willing to flex. Use the goal to establish a clear line of sight to your destination but be willing to revise it if priorities change or you’re off target. Don’t be like the Titanic—ignoring unseen obstacles in order to plow through toward the destination.
Pick up a copy of FranklinCovey’s book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution®, or consider engaging in the related process designed to ensure that teams reach their most important goals together with precision.