Defined Objectives Critical Toward Reaching Goals (Part 3 of 3)
Editor’s note: This is the last of a three-part series on building successful organizations.
“Proud people working together to achieve clearly defined objectives” has been the theme of this series. The last two Management Line columns have focused on “proud people” and “working together.” This month the focus is on clearly defined objectives. Clearly defined objectives first calls for planning — identifying (1) where we’re going and (2) how we’re going to get there. In working with many organizations, I have observed that managers tend to react rather than act. They resent spending the upfront time needed for effective planning.
“Plan? Do I really have to? I just don’t have the time!” On the short side it seems easier to jump in, get going, and see immediate results. On the long haul, we effectively meet our goals only if we map out in advance the specific way to get there.
It’s much the same as taking a trip. If we jump into the car with no specific plan in mind, we may end up at the beach, or in the mountains, or we may stop to see a friend and never leave town. As a result, we may not have the proper clothes for the mountains, enough money for the beach, or we may never use all the camping equipment we purchased last year. Our children who had expected to go to the beach may be extremely disappointed and their behavior may reflect it.
The problems that can result from lack of planning are endless, whether the goal is an enjoyable vacation or a profitable business. Therefore, the successful manager avoids these problems by spending the necessary time up front determining where the organization is going and how it’s going to get there. We need to discipline ourselves into recognizing that the resulting payoffs are well worth our investment.
So planning is important. But how do we plan effectively?
First, we need to determine the organization’s overall goals. These goals might relate to customer satisfaction, a quality product, high volume, or rapid growth. Overall goals are set by top management and often reflect a variety of factors from the current market, the industry, or the product/service to the individual goals of the top management.
A critical factor to be considered when determining overall goals is input from the ranks. My observation in working with clients is that they frequently neglect to get information needed from within the organization to help determine their overall goals and objectives.
More often than not, top management hands down an objective such as “20 percent growth” or “35 percent of the market share” without checking below to find out (1) how it can be reached, (2) what problems must be overcome, and/or (3) what changes may have to be made in order to meet it.
The results of neglecting this step is invariably employee frustration and frequently unmet objectives. On the other hand, listening to employees results in realistic goals and objectives. It also results in a team spirit and a commitment to meeting the organization’s goals.
Once the organization’s overall goals are determined, those goals should be the framework within which the specific objectives for each department and each employee are set. Each employee’s objectives should be formulated to help the department meet its objectives. And the departmental objectives should be designed to help the organization meet its goals. If the employees and the department have had input into organization’s goals, the results will be proud people working together to meet mutual objectives.
But we haven’t yet discussed “clearly defined” objectives. First, a clearly defined objective should be specific. In other words, “95 percent accuracy” rather than “accurate,” and willingness to take on additional responsibilities” rather than “attitude.”
Second, objectives should be challenging. My observation is that our general tendency is to set goals that are not challenging enough. They encourage mediocrity, or little more than “showing up on time.” Every person in the organization needs to stretch, grow and develop. This is best accomplished by proud people meeting challenging objectives.
On the other hand, objectives should also be attainable. Nothing is more self-perpetuating than lack of success. Of course, the question is, “Can we have both? Can objectives be challenging and attainable?” And the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Lastly, objectives should be compatible— fitting in with the objectives of other employees and other departments who are all working toward meeting the same organization goals.
For example, Organization has a goal of 95 percent customer satisfaction; Sales indicates that Service will respond to customers within four hours of notification;
Service’s goal is to respond to customers within eight working hours of notification. Result: dissatisfied customers. Why? Incompatible objectives.
An organization won’t get where it wants to be unless it knows where it is going and how to get there. To do that requires planning. The successful manager takes the time necessary to determine the organization’s overall goal and the specific objectives that need to be met on the way. In doing that the successful manager stops. Looks and listens to others throughout the organization in order to get their input. The result is proud people working together to achieve clearly defined objectives.