Christmas and the New Year are nigh, which means teams and companies are deep into yearly planning and goal setting. Yearly planning is always an amazing (and at times exhausting) opportunity to reflect on what the future might hold. You’re probably asking questions like:
- How much can we grow and how will we do it?
- What major strategic projects do we need to complete?
- Who do we need to hire?
All of that leading to... “What are next year’s goals?”
This Turns Out to be Hard
After interviewing countless teams and managers, we’ve reached some (rather obvious) conclusions:
- Setting goals that are both motivating and achievable is really hard
- Most teams won’t look at the goals they wrote down again until the next planning cycle
- At any point in time, team members tend to have wildly different opinions about what is actually important
- Team managers rarely communicate priorities as often as they think they do
Some of that probably sounds at least a little familiar? We found a simple exercise to be surprisingly helpful for solving the challenges above, and potentially a worthy way to kick off your yearly or quarterly goal setting:
- 5 minutes: have each member of the the team write down the three most important things for the team to accomplish in the next X period of time on three sticky notes (where X is the planning cycle; e.g. monthly, quarterly, yearly).
- 10 minutes: have each team member briefly explain the item on each sticky note and affix it to a wall/whiteboard. Group similar items.
- 5 minutes (optional): have each team member put a star next to their two top choices now that all ideas are on the table.
I think you’ll learn some pretty interesting things from this exercise:
- Is your team aligned? — there shouldn’t be a penalty for people providing different answers, but if nobody can agree on what’s most important then you’ll want to know that.
- Do your goals match what’s important? — if your most recent goals don’t match what came up during the exercise then you either had the wrong goals, or your business has changed significantly in the intervening time.
- Additional perspectives — setting goals is most powerful when done bottom-up and collaboratively and the exercise is a great way to get started with candidate goals. Gallup reports that teams that practice collaborative goal setting are 3.6 times more likely to be engaged than other employees.
Most importantly, once you do set your quarterly or yearly goals, keep reviewing the goals and assessing progress regularly (you might consider Koan for this!). Doing so will help you prioritize better, keep the team motivated, and ultimately provide a far better chance of succeeding at what you set out to achieve.