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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Annual Review and Goal Setting

The ability to deliver solid cost efficiencies and bottom line profits will be the measure of success for 2009. We are at the end of what I would consider to be a very difficult year and by many accounts a challenging year into the 3rd quarter of 2009. It is with this in mind that I wanted to look into the year end review and goal setting process with an eye for accomplishment. Rich Vosler in his blog post, "This Goal Setting Process Works!" said, "If you do a Google search for Goal Setting you’ll get over 9 million results" and I agree with him. Not a lot of these results were focused on goal setting for individual contributors within the corporate functions of an organization.

Kathy Sierra in her blog post "how to be an expert" said,”the most troubling--and where we have the most leverage--is with the amateur who is satisfied with where they are. These are the folks who you overhear saying, ‘Yes, I know there's a better way to do this thing, but I already know how to do it this [less efficient, less powerful] way and it's easy for me to just keep doing it like that.’ In other words, they made it past the suck threshold, but now they don't want to push for new skills and capabilities.” It is the manager’s responsibility to encourage the employee to step out of the comfort zone and further develop their skills.

There have been tremendous work done on studying goals and lots of evidence that if you just write down your goals you are already ahead of 90% of the population. As business managers it becomes our responsibility to look to our staff and like a coach or teacher build the goal setting process as part of the annual review. The purpose of goals at the individual contributor level is to encourage the further development of skills and the adoption of technology and efficiency enabling the individual to have more time for additional opportunities within the organization including improved personal fulfillment through their work. Goal setting will enable the employee and the manager to:

- Decide what is important for them to achieve their job functions

- Allow for prioritization of activities

- Develop a measure of how well the individual is doing

- To build self-esteem

performer the goal isn't just repeating the same thing again and again but achieving higher levels of control over every aspect of their performance...each session they are working on doing something better than they did the last time.” How do we as managers help our staff to do this by setting good SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.

Specific: For a goal to be specific it should be stated in one or two sentences. If the goal is extended into a paragraph or more the result is confusion. It is much better to break the goal down into several goals rather than have a complicated statement

Measurable: How will you determine the outcome of the goal; timed completion of tasks, certifications, or customer feedback ratings? Adding a measurable component to the goal setting process will enable straight forward determination of success or failure to complete the goal. Measures should be agreed between the manager and the employee and should be straight forward so that even an unknowing third party would be able to agree with the result.

Achievable: Achievability is the most important component. If we are going to work with staff to stretch to the next level we have to ensure that we are not setting targets beyond their capabilities. If the employee does not believe they can accomplish the goal then when they encounter their first setback they will choose to quit.

Relevant: We are talking about setting goals for the workplace; therefore, the goals should be targeting areas and practices that will benefit the company, within the employees’ role, or a development area.

Time Bound: After agreeing to the previous four items the manager and the employee will agree on an appropriate time frame. Generally these goals are defined on an annual or semiannual time frame so that they fit into the management and feedback cycle of the organization.

The best guideline for goal development with staff is to set three to five major goals for the year and then break these into quarterly sub-goals or deliverables. The result should be a collection of mid-term deliverables enabling staff members to verify that they are still on the correct path of achievement. . Michael Hyatt in his blog post, “Goal-Setting: The 90-Day Challenge” talking about adding 90 day based goals into his organization said, “I believe it has gone a long way toward creating a focused and disciplined organization that produces consistent results”. Three to five goals with 90 day deliverables and monthly check points moving team members forward along the path to success; each accomplishment building upon the earlier and ultimate completion at year end.

Zig Zigler recommended using the question, “does this bring me closer to or further from my goal.” To effectively answer this question requires breaking down the goals further into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. For the purposes of the annual goal setting process annual goals with quarterly deliverables will generate consistent results from the team. To further break the goals down into daily activities I recommend looking into some great blogs for more information.

Zen Habits



Getting Things Done in Academia

My Stuff for Getting Things Done


  1. You are right on the money, Jeff. I think 2009 will not be a year to coast along and rest on your laurels. That should make goal setting all the more important next year. I use quarterly SMART Goals in my company and find it very helpful in pushing yourself. My only challenge at times has been setting goals where YOU can determine the outcome. Extenuating circumstances can throw you off the mark. Any thoughts?

  2. Jeff, I like the way you've outlined the benefits for all involved in the goal setting process. Why do you think "Achievable" is the "most important" element? I think all the SMART components are equally valid--remember the saying, "if you aim for the stars, you might not make it but at least you won't be stuck in the mud."


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