Companies have different methods and timelines for goal setting. They also use different methods to measure the goals. Many companies find some time of the year to write out their news goals, maybe at the beginning of the new year. But, much like Employee evaluations, goals should be ongoing. Some short term goals and some long term goals should be part of the ongoing discussions that leaders have with their employees. Setting strategy is not enough, you have to have a clear path to achieve the goals.
The problem with most managers is that either they don't set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound), or they set goals for the year that are either too easily attainable or they desire to "boil the ocean". Easily attainable goals may include setting up a schedule for certain activities or using 5S to clean up the work area. This may be a very small step at total goal achievement, but it is not an overarching goal within itself. Boil the ocean goals are those that are set which may take multiple years or are outside to the employee's span of influence. So how do we deal with goals if we can't set easy goals or very hard goals?
We need to set a mix of goals. Some short term goals should be revisited frequently depending upon the complexity of the goal. "Boil the ocean" goals should be split up into manageable components on discrete timelines that are contained within the goal period. If you are only talking with your employees about goals and progress towards goals once per year, then you need to reevaluate your use of goals in your management style.
Employees should also be involved in defining the goals. It is easy as a manager to set goals that are important to you for your employees, but there are a few problems with that approach.
- A manager who sets all of the goals based upon her knowledge assumes that she knows all that needs accomplished and that her employees don't have a different or more valid view of operations.
- A manager who sets all of the goals may miss personal goals that employees may need to attain. Both the manager and the employee have views of areas to improve so both should have input into the employee development.
- Employees who are not part of the goal setting process may feel disengaged in the process or feel that the goal is not attainable.
- Managers with many employees may set the same goals for all employees that are the same when an individualized approach may make more sense.
Once goals have been developed, the frequent interactions between employees and managers should include reviews of progress towards those goals and new goals. I have seen managers keep employee scorecards or ask employees to write memos about what they have accomplished. I prefer just ensuring that there is an open dialog with employees. Whatever the review method, the important part of goal setting and managing is keeping it relevant.