Building Objectives That Get ResultsAug 30, 2022
“We tend to overestimate what can be done in the near future and grossly underestimate what can be done in the distant future.” —Arthur Clarke.
As business leaders we've all been in the place where we spend hours, maybe even days mapping plans for the coming year only to come up with partial progress. Often times even the most important projects get put off for the urgency of the now. It's completely normal and expected, but it can be overcome.
We fight it by setting clear, compelling Objectives and building them with a defined system that helps our teams achieve great outcomes.
But wait... what is an Objective?
Objectives are the most important priorities for the quarter (90-day period).
An Objective should be beyond everyday roles, responsibilities, or job duties of any one person's role.
For example, if I am running the sales department and have a 1.5M quota for the quarter, that is not an Objective - that is my job. Implementing a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to make my team more efficient and intelligent would be an Objective. We’ll be stronger, faster, healthier, and/or more efficient next quarter by completing the Objective this quarter.
As is common, Objectives live and die by their definition. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the end of the quarter and asking if an Objective is complete only to hear someone say, “I’m not sure what we meant when we set that Objective.” This lack of clarity and direction can make any team go crazy!
So how do we get clear and strategic with our Objectives? We must clearly name them.
Help your team keep these six best practices in mind when it comes to setting Objectives:
- Focus - Less is more. Better to complete a few Objectives than make marginal progress on several Objectives in that 90-day period.
- Alignment - Ensure there is a visible connection to the overall strategy and vision.
- Commitment - Establish a specified time frame for completion (90 days).
- Tracking - Milestones are a tangible way to measure progress at the 30 and 60-day marks. You can also track progress through a metric on the Scorecard.
- Stretching - Remain realistic while aiming to do 10-30% more than what you think is possible.
- Ownership - There should be ONE owner. You may have several contributors but only one owner.
Now on the practical side, try building objectives with your team with this outline. The results and clarity are usually transformative for teams that struggle to pace big projects and be clear about the outcomes they're looking for. The following steps are an example of how we work on Objectives in a session setting with a leadership team.
- Begin brainstorming 90-Day Objectives:
- Brainstorm a list. Items on the list can be related to an individual’s own department or role. They can also be related to initiatives in other areas of the business as long as they are thinking globally for the business and departmentally.
- The question everyone should be answering is this: What are the most important things we need to accomplish in the next 90 days for this business as a whole?
- Collect all ideas in a big list that everyone can see and review.
- Next, Keep, Kill, Combine:
- Keep it if it is a viable candidate for a 90-Day Objective.
- Kill it if it is not a good candidate for the next 90 days, and put it in a parking lot list. Your parking lot list is just a place to keep these ideas so they don’t get lost.
- Combine it if there are similar ideas on the board that go together.
- Run through the list a few times if needed to get to 3-5 Objectives.
- Once you have a list of 3-5 final Objectives, record them somewhere your team will see them and keep them in mind (we use the S2 Syncᵀᴹ app).
- Work on building out Objectives:
- Ex. “Annual Client Event” should be restated as “Prepare an amazing Annual Client Experience.” (outcome vs. input or objective vs. task)
- Rename Objective as a clear mission. State what the outcome will be.
- Define the Key Results. These are the major tasks required to move the Objective from start to finish. Make a bulleted list.
- Set Milestones. These should be things that the Objective Owner can show and tell at the milestone markers. Your team will perform this show-and-tell in your recurring meetings on the milestone dates that coincide with the 30 and 60-day marks.
- Decisions. Ask the question, “what decisions can we make today that would greatly accelerate the success of this Objective?''. If there are decisions that your team decides to make, capture them on a list on the board. You will review the actions you need to take later in this session.
- Define an Owner for each Objective and capture Decisions the team made.
- Remember this: There should only be ONE owner per Objective. They can get help, input, or delegate aspects of the Objective to other team members. But only one person can drive and own it.
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