Is your team aligned around critical goals?

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Image credits:

In my blog post on the 7th of May 2014 titled ‘How great is your team?’, I promised to go into details of the 11 different aspects that makes a great team. The first aspect regarding ‘Burning Platforms’ was detailed in my blog post on the 30th of June and here is the second installment; is your team Ali GED around critical goals?

This is one of the key reasons for team performance below potential identified by me in many of my team leadership consulting assignments.

During a consultation for a global company in the manufacturing industry, senior leaders were asked to list down their critical goals. While there was one which was common in everyone’s list, it was fascinating to see the differences in the rest of the items.

You must have guessed right, the common item was profit targets and the list that varied included quality, sales, technological advancement, cost reduction, attrition, team work, brand image etc. What was also interesting was that the HR head had attrition in her list while the CFO had cost reduction in his list; they turned out to be more their own functions

During the rest of the day I facilitated the team to conduct radical conversation around the various goals and we ended up the day with a few simple but powerful goals all team members were aligned with.

During the session I cited the metaphor of ‘will this make the boat go faster’ to underline the fact that; If our goals are clear we know what we should do and should not do. When the British rowing team was preparing for the Olympics and had to make a decision they asked the question, ‘will this make the board go faster?’ This helped them to turned down dinner invitations and they even decided not to attend the opening ceremony. The net result they improved their speed by a few seconds and ended up winning the gold.

The phrase; ‘will this make the boat go faster’ became an interesting anchor during the discussions of the day and is been still used in meetings and planning session.

Following are some of the criteria to be used in setting goals that everyone can get aligned around;

1. Are the goals in alignment with the mission, vision 2017 (we recommend companies to go with dated vision rather than the traditional dateless visions which failed to give meaning to the team). The ‘will this make the boat go fast’ test was used a lot during this discussion.

2. Are the goals cross functional in nature, is there a need for a majority of the functions to work together in achieving these goals, if not they should become functional goals.

3. Are the results of the goals visible to the majority of the team members in the organization.

4. Would the goals excite, engage and energize the majority of the team members of the organization.

5. What was a confidence of the team that the goals are accessible with above average effort. The goals should not be simple to get, but also should not be totally unrealistic that the team gives up even before they start.

6. Are the critical ‘must win battles’ of the organization addressed by the goals?

7. Do the goals cover the ‘adaptive’ (behavioral) aspect that enables the technical aspects, in addition to the technical aspects. A technical goal could be achieve an ROI growth, while the related adaptive goal could be a high level of team work, respect and trust. Organizations tend to leave such goals aside as they are difficult to measure, but the more courageous organizations include them and find a way of measuring them.

This aspect took a large part of the 3 day session and the rest of the time was spent validating the mission and formulating the vision 2017 (before the goals discussion) and formulating strategies and action plans to achieve the goals.

Once the team is aligned behind the goals, all energies could be invested in achieving the goals as a team, rather than engaging in ego battles, conflict resolutions and proving one is right and the other is wrong.

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