Are you avoiding objective setting because it is “Difficult”?

SET objectives and UPDATE them regularly to ensure you achieve your milestones, celebrate, AND so everyone remains aligned to the company goals.
Because clear objectives are the first tenet of good reports here is a general redress:

STEP ONE – Keep it Simple – or at least start easy

Don’t over-complicate Objective Setting or put it in the “too hard basket”.. And definitely don’t expect to get it absolutely perfect first go – remember objective setting can be much easier than you think!

STEP TWO – Take time to create the “set-up”

Be clear about the differences between your firm’s purposes, objectives and targets: (not trying to focus on the dictionary here – the aim is to label and recognise various LEVELS of fine tuning within your organisation)

  • Purpose – general overview of what you are supposed to be doing; a non-specific summary.
    e.g. improve customer experience
  • Objective – a goal that supports the purpose – it preferably has begun to be  S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time framed.
    e.g. decrease widget production defects by the 5th July
  • Target – the details of the “specific/measurable/time framed” parts embedded in a S.M.A.R.T. objective.
    e.g. Decrease widget defects by 5 per day (from 26 daily defects to 21 per day) before 8th July 2013 –  where a “defect” is considered to be any damage to widgets and/or any fault that renders the widget inoperable or partially operable.

Just because the Target setting part is difficult, don’t let that stop you from setting objectives; all too often, to everyone’s detriment, the whole process is aborted before it is started, progress is never made so reports, and decisions, continue to be misguided.

STEP THREE – Slow and Steady wins the race

Start at the beginning, clarify your objectives then set some targets… try them out, TEST your targets first… Understanding cause and effect is critical to being able to make improvements…and understanding comes from good information and experience.   Avoid immediately tieing objectives and targets to staff performance measures or remuneration. The only two things I find more de-motivating than being set an impossibly high target are being set a really easy one OR being set a target I can’t influence.
If you have new objectives, and are new to setting and tracking targets, give yourself and your team, space to make mistakes, to learn and to improve your BEFORE complicating things incentives and disincentives.

STEP FOUR create objectives by using the metaphor of your business as a tree

  1. It starts at the top of the tree, the fruit – what your firm do/sell and what must the firm focus on at the moment to be great in business? Pick 5 things – These are your firm’s purposes!
  2. Then down to the branches – what do management/departments need to do to this month to achieve the firm’s purposes? Pick five more things – assuming you are a manager/owner these will be your personal purposes from which you can develop objectives…
  3. Next is the trunk – what do your billing/sales/production staff need to do to help management achieve their objectives AND for the firm to fullfil its purpose – these become your staff objectives..
  4. Then comes the roots – the support stuff, what 5 things do they need to focus on to make sure ALL of the targets further up the tree are achieved… – these become your support staff objectives..

e.g. One firm purpose might be Fabulous Customer Experience.  Each department with vary in the way it aligns to the firm objectives, as each has a different area of impact: When considering Customer Experience the:

• Customer Service Manager: purpose = quick issue resolution
• Production Manager: purpose = excellent quality

Customer service will not be able to impact quality, and production will most likely have very little to do with issue resolution, but both these departments’ outputs will impact the overall ability of the firm to achieve its purpose.
Customer Service staff can then be given an objective of : decreasing complaint resolution time, this can eventually have a target added to create the smart objective “Answering the telephone on first three rings 85% of the time, and within 6 rings 100% of the time”

In short...

A) Be inclusive – ensuring you circulate your top 5 for input and buy-in BEFORE you spend a lot of time in the fine-tuning, target setting, info gathering phases – make sure that input is from above, sideways and below – not all from one direction.
B) Don’t get too hung up about needing to be right – OBJECTIVES CHANGE; they are never locked in stone, work out what your firm priorities are RIGHT NOW then flow it down so yourself and your team are aligned, working together towards greatness for your business (which in turn creates greatness for you)
C) Review, rework and re-align regularly – initially this may be as often as monthly until the objectives are clear, the targets meaningful, and the reporting information appropriate.  In the above example answering the phone on the 1st v the 3rd ring probably won’t make a huge difference to the customer however not answering the phone for 10 rings will definitely impact the customers’ experience.  Even so “number of rings” may not be an important factor in overall customer satisfaction if the staff are poorly trained to handle complaints, or do not have appropriate authority for issue resolution…

NOTE: If you are the firm owner, or board member then crystallising the firm purposes into objectives with targets, is part of your role. If you are starting lower down the tree where the firm objectives are not available/visible, the next best approach is to align your own objectives to BOTH the firm purpose (usually found in the mission statement) and your bosses’ purpose (usually found their job description). If you are working in a vacuum, and just starting out with objectives, look at job descriptions – as many as you can get hold of – for initial guidance. Regardless, it doesn’t matter where you start if you align to the objectives – every improvement, no matter how small is in the right direction.

What is your favourite business objective?

(share in the comments at the bottom of the page so the 500 or so people that regularly view these posts will benefit too.)

Now that you have a taste of what we can do… here are some more options to improve your business profits: