Our Approach to Goal Setting
In this article we share an insider’s look at how we set, execute and evaluate goals. Of course, our process is supported by PeachyHR but is perfectly doable using a number of technologies, including a pen and paper!
Our goal process is heavily influenced by design thinking and software engineering applied to a high-performance culture. Just as we do with software, we have been iterating through the process, feeding lessons learned back into our model and always believing that better is possible.
At a high-level our goal process involves the following four segments:
- Define a company-wide goal cycle, with specific objectives (every 4 months)
- Ideate, iterate and commit to individual goals (about 2 weeks)
- Execute on goals with regular check-ins (about 14 weeks)
- Evaluate and reflect on goals and the process (a couple of days)
1. Define Company-Wide Goal Cycle
Our company-wide goals are usually consistent over the year, however, we like to have the ability to emphasize specific areas over 4 month periods. This way we can march towards our big organization objectives, but also respond and refocus based on key developments.
This effort is done primarily by the CEO, with some level of feedback from the more senior members of the team.
2. Ideate and Commit to Goals
At this point the entire organization joins in. Once a goal cycle is kicked off, it is time for each member of the team to identify 9-12 goals spread across different focus areas. The focus areas provided us with different lenses to evaluate goal importance. This helps us to diversify goals and to ensure we’re always wowing our clients, improving the organization overall and building more capable and valuable employees.
Once an individual has enough draft goals, they will start to meet with their support mentor to refine and select goals that make sense given the context of the business and other goals being selected. This is a highly collaborative and high-touch process. In the end each member only selects three goals.
As goals are refined they are augmented with specific milestones and steps needed to accomplish the goal. The process of making the goal execution more concrete is an excellent way to identify other resources that will be needed as well as one’s general interest in seeing the goal through.
The end result is that each goal is committed to by the individual as well as their supporter. It is up to both parties to make the goal happen.
We now enter the bulk of the goal cycle, which is usually about 14 weeks. We believe that this represents enough time to accomplish something big and juicy without getting lost. The process is to work through milestones and steps on a path to delivering the goal in a timeframe that makes sense.
All goals are public during this period so that team members can not only be aware of what others are doing, but play a role in actively helping them succeed.
Supporters meet as needed with goal setters to review progress, offer advice and help when necessary. This regular meeting is a collaborative effort, not a status report.
In the event that a goal no longer makes sense, we have an explicit process to “reboot” it. This puts it back into a state where it can be modified. In general, we don’t like doing this as it shows that we didn’t put in the right amount of thought when initially drafting the goals. However, life happens and it's better to fix it than to commit to a goal that isn’t going to result in something amazing.
4. Evaluate and Reflect
As part of defining goals, we include how we’re going to evaluate that the goal was successful in its intent. This prevents committing to a bunch of goals that are really hard to measure. When we get to this part of the cycle we want to be laser focused on proving or disproving that we achieved what we said we were going to.
This is a fun period to celebrate the successes and learn from the failures. We also use this time to reflect on the goal cycle and identify ways that we could do better. This is the exact same process we use in development, called a retrospective.
We have a long way to go in terms of perfecting our own process and are committed to continually refining it and doing it in a way that takes the least amount of effort for the most benefit. After all, like your business we have a lot of things to do above and beyond goal setting!
I’d love to hear how you approach goal setting in your small business. Feel free to message me with what works or doesn’t work in your high-performing organization.
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About the author
Chris has spent his career admiring and analyzing high performance teams and organizations in tech. He is now fortunate to lead one of these teams.
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