If you are going to do it, do it right - Objective Setting

It’s that time of year when many of us sit down and start the performance management cycle once again.

Now we could have an interesting debate about how appropriate the traditional performance management process is for the modern day business world. Is the Parent/Child dynamic, annual goal setting ritual and annual or bi-annual performance appraisal ‘fun fest’ really fit for purpose anymore? Hmmm! Some organisations have even abandoned the process altogether!

However on the basis that for the moment, many of us do participate in the process, we thought we would share some tools with you that you may find useful. They come from work we did with a client last year that in many ways was very revealing.

We spent a number of days with small groups of managers in this organisation – the intention being to support them in agreeing SMART objectives with their staff members. The interesting part was that we didn’t even get onto the objectives for their people because we never got past them working on their own objectives.

Was this because they were slow on the uptake? No. Was this because they worked in a particularly complex business? No, not this either.

The reason it look so long was because IT CAN BE HARD! I am not sure anyone actually wants to admit this but it is true. Intellectually everyone understands what the SMART acronym stands for. Mention it on a management development programme and some people immediately start rolling their eyes. Managers since the dawn of time have been learning about SMART objectives. This in some way is why it often doesn’t get done very well. People assume they should know it and therefore, it should be something they can do quickly.  However deciding exactly where you want to go and when you would like to get there should be the most important part of any journey so why the rush? Surely it’s more important to get it right. A lack of clarity at the start is often what causes disagreements, arguments and bunfights at appraisal time.

So, a few thoughts from our experiences....

The first thing – allocate enough time. This is a very important task so make sure you give it due care and attention.

Secondly, take personal accountability for making sure your own goals are crystal clear. If they are not, do some more work on them.

If you are a manager, you can then coach your people in the definition of their objectives.  

The key with all of this is the rigour. So I have attached a few coaching tools that are designed to drive through to the appropriate level of detail and rigour. I am sure you may already have your own versions which of course is fine – so feel free to use, crib or discard as you see fit.

  • Click here for a coaching tool that can be applied to each objective.
  • Click here for a coaching tool to help ensure that, for each individual, their set of objectives represents an appropriate level of challenge, stretch and contribution for someone with their role, experience and skill.
  • Click here for a quick guide for managers to check that their team as a whole have a balanced set of objectives that will deliver what the team needs to deliver and that represents an appropriate level of growth, challenge and contribution to the organisation’s success.   

If you find any of these useful, do let us know. Likewise, if there is anything else we can provide to help gear your managers up for the task ahead, do get in contact.