Setting Annual Goals

goalsettingAt the beginning of each year most large companies ask all employees to set goals for the year. The tools and process vary widely between companies but there are some elements that are really consistent.

I’ve outlined the principles to follow, with background examples where I can find them.

Set S.M.A.R.T goals

The S.M.A.R.T acronym is often used as a guide or even a requirement by companies. Even if it’s not required it’s a good way to think about goal setting. Here’s how the acronym breaks down.

Specific

Set out what the goal is including purpose or benefits, geographic scope, business scope,  and dependencies or constraints.

  • roll out programme B in EMEA markets, provided business case proves value in individual markets
  • increase sales across T category of products
  • evaluate process X, and plan improvements.
  • build network of experts in field P, across European markets
  • increase customer satisfaction

Measurable

Explain how progress will be measured. Measurement may be quantitative or qualitative. You could use sales data, website traffic, lead generation, marketing reach, survey data (including internal surveys). I encourage my team to focus on impact on the company, rather than counting tasks completed, but I try to make sure it’s still something easily measured and unambiguous.

  • roll out programme B in 60% of EMEA markets, provided business case proves value in individual markets
  • increase sales by 30%   across T category of products
  • evaluate process X, and plan improvements, goal is met when plan is delivered and 3 improvements have been made
  • build network of experts in field P, across European markets, with participation rates in online community reach 70%
  • increase customer satisfaction as measured by quarterly online survey by 5%

You can also include some “stretch” in the goals, particularly if your pay system has a variable component;

  • roll out programme B in 60% of EMEA markets, provided business case proves value in individual markets, stretch goal = 80%

Attainable

The goal should be something the you or your team can reach in the time frame given. It should not be extreme, as this would be demotivating. It should not be to easy, as this could reduce the drive and initiative applied to achieving the goal.

If you’re writing a set of goals make sure that the total list doesn’t exceed a year’s work. Make sure that each goal is proportional to the time it will require, if you have five goals each one should be roughly 20% of the time needed through the year.

Defining an achievable goal may include stating constraints or dependencies.

  • roll out programme B in 60% of EMEA markets, provided business case proves value in individual markets
  • evaluate process X, and plan improvements, goal is met when plan is delivered and 3 improvements have been made, note that this depends on budget being available.
  • increase customer satisfaction as measured by quarterly online survey, excluding any product recalls.

Relevant

Relevant goals are ones that deliver value to the company, department and team.  They should be aligned with the goals of leaders, peers and any sub-ordinates. The goals should also be appropriate for your seniority level, both in terms of complexity and impact on the company.

If goals set are relevant they will be meaningful and motivating for you.

Time-bound

Each goal should set out a timeline for achievement, this may mean breaking goal into constituent parts to specify timeline.

  • increase sales by 30%   across T category of products, by end October to meet sales planning.
  • evaluate process X, and plan improvements by end Q1, goal is then to deliver 3 improvements by end of year, note that this depends on budget being available.

It can be a challenge to get this right as an individual, and even more difficult when setting goals across a larger team, but it’s important to do it right. It’s good for the manager to have specific goals and alignment across the team, with each person knowing how they contribute to the big picture. And knowing your individual goals focuses your attention on what’s really important.

On a more practical note; setting up the goals well makes the performance review conversation much easier for everyone.

 Image; Goal and Sky |  Steve 9567 | CC BY-ND 2.0

 

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