How to Set & Achieve your Next BIG Goal
Regardless of your specific BIG goal, you’ll need to do certain things to ensure the goal is achieved. Much has been written about SMART (and DUMB) goals, and I covered an overall assessment project (which drills down from high level to more detailed) in past posts. In this article I’ll review the approach we are using within my new team to achieve our strategic goals over the coming 1-2 years.
I tend to be extremely goal-oriented, so I can work toward the same goal for years — inching ahead in a persistent and steady way that infuriates instant-gratification type folks. As an extreme example, it took me 24 years to complete my education (but our education never really ends, right?). I am happy plugging away at my personal goals, but when working through others we need mechanisms to keep everyone engaged long-term. So, in my new role I asked myself:
How can we set and meet a multi-year goal, while also minimizing the frustration of people who want faster results?
The Importance of Goals
Setting goals is one of the most important tasks of a leader. Done correctly, it gives a company constant improvements and continued growth. I remember when I was training for my black belt — the next belt color was my immediate goal, but the master instructor always reminded me of the ultimate goal of black belt. On the day of my black belt test, the master instructor explained the additional work I’d need for 2nd-degree black belt. At the time, I didn’t want to hear about the next big goal. In fact, I remember being a little peeved — I just wanted to enjoy a brief time of utter complacency. But our karate master knew that the next BIG goal must be set to avoid stagnation.
So, we agree goals are important and we agree that as leaders we must always push for the next BIG goal.
Keeping up Momentum
The next challenge is keeping the team motivated while the progress inches toward the goal. This is where meaningful measurements can really help.
Map your goal to LEAD and LAG measures
As a stubbornly-persistent person, I’m perfectly comfortable watching the needle move a fraction of an inch toward my BIG goals (as evidenced in the 20+ years it took me to complete my education!). As long as we’re moving in the right direction, I know we’ll eventually get where we want to be. However, in most organizations we need some method to make the process meaningful to the front-line employees and managers.
The key to getting dedication from the team over the long-haul is consistent communication of the results at a meaningful level. This means mapping your BIG goal to LEAD and LAG measures — possibly lots of them.
In the book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, by Chris McChesney, Sean Covy, and Jim Huling, LAG measures report progress after-the-fact, and LEAD measures are the scoreboard of activities that can most directly influence your BIG goal. For example, if your BIG goal is to increase online sales by 10% over the next six months, the LEAD measure may be daily marketing spend and the LAG measure may be daily sales by sales channel. Marketing spend can directly influence sales (LEAD) and daily sales are calculated after-the-fact (LAG). To show progress, sales by channel can be put into a simple table like this:
|Date||Website A||Website B||Other|
Which can be summarized in an easy-to-read chart that shows how close we are to our target:
Putting this level of detail in front of people who can influence the results is one of the BEST ways to get to your goal.
In the example here, you see that total sales decreased on 5/28/16 and increased on 5/29/16. If this type of change is unusual, it’s a good bet that someone knows why. Obviously, you want to do more of whatever happened on 5/29 (and less of what happened on 5/28).
When the people doing the work see the specific impact that daily activity can have on the corporate goals, they become involved at a new level. This is what we want — employee engagement throughout the organization.
Report the measures as often as possible
Post the measurements daily, if possible. You want to build the correlation of hard work to results. If employees can see the immediate benefit in hustle-and-bustle (vs just showing up), you are better able to drive your strategic change over the long-haul.
Strategy is easier than execution
As many leaders learn (sometimes the hard way), ideas are easy. Everybody has ideas. The real challenge is mapping those ideas to the front-line, where the actual work happens — while also keeping the front-line employees engaged in the process.