Set goals for 2014, but be realistic
It's the end of the year and time for resolutions.
Perhaps a better bet would be for organizations to create realistic goals.
Consultant Hal Resnick contends organizations should set strategic goals that generate action toward annual business goals as well as toward the longer-term vision.
Resnick is a Ponte Vedra-based organizational and training consultant with more than 40 years of experience with local, nationwide and international companies.
He is president of Work Systems Associates Inc. and wrote about strategic goal-setting for his November newsletter posted at worksystems.com.
Resnick provides six principles for effective and successful goal-setting.
Strategic goals are a senior team responsibility
Strategic goals should be developed by the senior leadership team working together, Resnick says.
The process can take one or two days and should take place before the budgeting process because some goals might need resources.
He advises against "bottom-up" goal-setting because that creates "transactional" goals.
He also advises against individual senior team members developing individual
strategic goals because that can create or reinforce organizational silos "while failing to address the more compelling challenges or opportunities facing the entire company."
Take an honest look at the current reality
To ensure strategic goals are grounded in reality, the senior team should first conduct an honest and rigorous review of its current situation, Resnick says.
• The external review should examine the marketplace, including competitors and their recent actions, successes and failures. It should also include an appraisal of the current customer base – size, profile of the current customers, emerging customer needs and current customer satisfaction.
• The internal review should include an assessment of organizational strengths that create competitive advantages as well as current weaknesses that could be exploited by competitors.
"Some leadership teams are not sufficiently aggressive in this assessment either due to the defensiveness of some members or a desire not to appear to attack colleagues," he writes of the internal review.
"The consequence can be an internal review that glosses over some critical areas in need of attention," he continued.
Resnick cautions that previous strategies that led to success could have become barriers to growth.
"Protecting products that are past their 'sell-by' date; holding steadfast to processes that cannot scale to the greater levels; unwillingness to assess leadership gaps; or maintaining technologies that need to be replaced are common examples," he writes.
The common SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – can be helpful if it focuses on the truly important goals, he says.
Review organizational mission and vision
Pull up the organization's mission and vision statements, which should be the centerpiece for setting strategic goals, he says.
"An analysis that either affirms or modifies these statements is an essential prerequisite," he says.
He says the team can discuss and agree on the substance of changes and assign the editing task to a single person or small team. That person or team can bring back several versions for the group to review.
"The danger of getting bogged down and arguing over a word or a phrase should be avoided."
Set the goals at the organizational level
There are two approaches to developing strategic goals.
Resnick said the first is to have the group brainstorm all the barriers and obstacles — internal and external — that might prevent the organization from achieving its vision. That is a risk-based scenario model.
The second is to have the group brainstorm all the strategies they think need to be implemented — again both internal and external — to achieve the desired vision and fulfill its mission. That is more forward-thinking in style.
He says either or both approaches can be used separately or together to make sure the goal-setting is complete.
Once the list of potential goals has been identified, the senior team should prioritize them against importance and impact, Resnick says.
"One of the more common methods is 'dot voting' in which each person is allocated a certain number of points and everyone assigns them simultaneously to the goals on the chart. The criteria can be importance, or impact or both," he suggests.
The result will be five to 10 strategic goals.
After the goals have been set, the next question is whether the organization has the capacity to reach for all of them and when.
"This requires honest rigor and analysis of financial capacity, leadership capacity and implementation capacity," Resnick says.
If not, he recommends reviewing each goal against the question: Is this goal necessary for us to achieve our vision? If the answer is no, then implementation is optional at the moment.
When the goals have all been reviewed, the second question is whether the achievement of the strategic goals is sufficient to achieve the organization's vision. If no, then some strategic goals are missing.
Set stage for successful implementation
Goals fail because there is no single point of ownership and no cross-functional team collectively accountable for their success, Resnick says.
His recommendation: Each goal should be given to a strategy leader from the leadership team, and that leader should identify three to five people to serve on a team.
The first task of the team is to develop an implementation plan to be approved by the senior leadership team, along with a process for reviewing progress.
"Most organizations are very good at the tactical day-to-day implementation of their work," Resnick summarizes.
But few are equally good at setting and reaching for strategic goals.
However, doing so "can catapult an organization toward the achievement of its vision."
There's your assignment for 2014.