Setting Strategic Goals
The role of leadership is to create the circumstances for their teams to perform at their peak. And peak performance starts with strategic clarity. Leaders need to know how to effectively set goals across the company.
Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing leaders.
To create strategic clarity leaders must start by creating shared goals that are clear, compelling, relevant, and aligned with people AND business priorities through effective strategy retreat facilitation. Then, they must have a process to collectively recalibrate as things change.
When done right, the process of collectively defining, managing, tracking, and adjusting approaches to achieve important goals creates the synergy businesses need to win.
How to Set Goals Across the Company
- Start at the Highest Levels
While some initiatives are best started from the bottom-up, we have found that effective goal setting starts at the highest levels. If the Board or Executive team are not on the same page regarding priorities, the wake of ambiguity, conflict, politics, and dysfunction they create can be massively disruptive for the rest of the organization.
The most successful goals all have key attributes that make them potent. And if you have more than five big goals at the company level, you have too many. In fact, if you want to raise your chances of success, do not have more than two major company-wide initiatives going on at the same time.
The focus should be on the “Big Rocks” you need to move to create undisputed high performance, not on the day-to-day hygiene areas required to run the business. Done right, company-wide visions, missions, values, and goals can be articulated on a one page strategy communication map with clear executive sponsors accountable for each initiative.
You will know that you are on the right track when every executive team member can articulate the strategy clearly and has 90%+ confidence that it will be successful in your unique circumstances. Otherwise, you have more work to create leadership team alignment before involving the rest of the organization.
- Actively Involve the Next Layer of Direct Reports Until Everyone Has Their Fingerprints on the Part They Play
Once the Executive Team has agreed upon what matters most, most leadership teams make a fatal mistake — they begin a communication campaign to inform the rest of the organization of the strategy and expect them to carry it out.
Regardless of the effectiveness, communication alone does not influence the hearts, minds, and behaviors of those who you count on to execute against high stake strategic imperatives. According to recent Gartner research, what leaders SAY only has a 1% impact on alignment. People care much more about what leaders DO and what the overall culture EXPECTS.
The most effective way to cascade your strategy is to actively involve the next layers of leaders, managers, and individual contributors in providing honest feedback, concerns, and improvements from their perspective. You want to ruthlessly uncover what would be required to create high levels of clarity, alignment, and commitment across the company.
Bain found that the early and active involvement of those required to carry out the strategy has the highest correlation (50% higher than any other factor) to successful implementation.
Gallup found that when employees can clearly see the connections between their day-to-day work and the purpose of their efforts, engagement increases by 3.5 times.
We have found that active involvement and feedback improves strategic clarity and alignment by 20 to 40 percent across every level in the organization.
The Bottom Line
While you may be anxious to communicate your strategy to the company to quickly execute against the high stakes pressures that you rightfully feel as an executive, it will only slow you down. Goals and strategies must go through people and culture to be successfully implemented. Go slow to go fast and actively involve those whom you count on to achieve your targets.
To learn more about how to set goals across the company, download The 3 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy