The easy guide to setting objectives


Series Performance Management

You sit down with your boss for a scheduled meeting and she begins with… “Look, it’s that time of year again. You know what you have to do and I know what I have to do. But we need to set objectives otherwise I’ll get harassed by HR for weeks. So here are your objectives for this year”. That start has got you motivated in the same way a turtle gets motivated to race against a rabbit. It’s the opposite, demotivating! So how do we solve this?

Five things to keep in mind

Who should write them? Many managers experience a dilemma; should they specify objectives for the people whose performance they must review, or should they solicit objectives from them? Both approaches are actually OK but in all cases, discussion and negotiation is needed because this increases motivation and commitment to the objectives.

Why bother? Living a life without setting goals is like sailing a ship without having planned a course: you’re likely to end up somewhere that you wouldn’t want to go! This is why specific and challenging objectives lead to higher results than ‘easy’ objectives, ‘do your best’ objectives, or no objectives at all.

When do they motivate? It’s okay if it is difficult. The higher the goal, the higher the performance. So stretching is perfectly fine. But be aware how much you stretch. The objectives still need to be within reach and attainable.

How does one write a good objective? Using the acronym SMART helps you make objectives specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. For example “reduce customer complaints by 30% by December 2016” would be a good objective or “increase Sales Product X with 10% by December 2016”. To illustrate using a bad example, “Provide good service to all customers” is not SMART, whereas “Increase your Customer Service Satisfaction Score to 80% this financial year” is a good example, it is SMART.

Do they need to be aligned with organisational goals? Yes! It’s important that people know how their objectives align with the organization’s goals. People want to be a part of something. They want to be involved in a real mission. Letting them know how they contribute to the organization’s goals helps achieve this. And seen from the organization’s perspective, cascading goals is relevant too because it aligns our efforts and makes us focus on what we want to achieve as a team, function and organization.

So let’s go for it! Discuss this years’ objectives and prevent objectives that read like an airy, fairy, jumble of words. Instead, set objectives that matter, motivate and make a real difference.


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