Goals. Why don’t I like them?

Mark Lewis
May 15, 2018
min read
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Goals are worse than New Year’s Resolutions. When we make them they sound great, we’re all motivated and think we’ve got this… YEAH!! But, it’s easy to underestimate the time involved and it’s even easier to procrastinate a year away or get distracted by more ‘urgent’ activities.

Inevitably, many goals don’t get completed and it creates a feedback loop that we shouldn’t set ourselves up to fail.

Because completing goals is the measure of success, right?

However, there’s something that can be even more frustrating than goals… Key Performance Indicators or KPI’s…

Why? Because they include all the challenges of goals, plus 3 more elements that we need to juggle

  1. KPI’s are usually cascaded down and if you haven’t been involved in the process it can be really hard to take ownership of outcomes.
  2. They’re set in stone for a year but often become disconnected from business needs in just a few months. We’re then faced with a decision, do we keep working on our KPI’s because that’s what we’re measured on? Or do we work on what the business really needs?…
    Most of us want to do the ‘right’ thing by our employer so we work on what the business really needs. Could you recite your KPI’s now? If not, you’re probably working on the right thing! Crazy huh?
  3. Our KPI’s are often tied to bonus. Referring back to point 2, we’re now in a sticky situation that if we don’t work on our KPI’s we may be missing out on our bonus. You know what?… Most people still work on the right thing!

Even when KPI’s do stay aligned, unfortunately for the system, us humans are good at finding the path of least resistance… instead of the bonus driving big efforts to achieve KPI’s, it drives big efforts to negotiate low KPI’s so we can guarantee our bonus!

So this is why we don’t like goals… the traditional approach is at odds with how us humans actually like work.


If they’re so bad, why do KPI’s even exist?

KPI’s used to be highly effective for driving performance, in an era when success metrics didn’t change from year to year and it was all about manufacturing efficiency.

The concept was written into many management books and that’s the way we’ve all been taught to manage performance ever since.

How to do successful goals…

20 years ago some smart companies (Intel and Google) figured out a goal process that works.

It works, because it works the way humans like to work.

It’s called OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results)

There’s a whole framework around it but my aim is to get you going with the basics and win 80% of the benefits.

Firstly the process is quarterly. So rather than create a list of what we want to do with due dates, we ask ourselves… “What are the top 3 objectives I can achieve this quarter?

This immediately helps our brains by putting a time limit around our goals… and stops us getting carried away with unrealistic volumes of work.

When setting these objectives, discuss with your manager and consider how they are contributing to the current priorities of the business.

Think about this for a moment…

We have just helped build more ownership of the objectives (because you came up with them). We have a realistic number of priorities and since we re-asses them each quarter, our work is aligned with the business.

If you’re feeling that was easy… Add 3 Key Results for each objective. Key Results are a ‘number’ or a measure that we would like to achieve. The idea being, if you achieve all your Key Results then the Objective will be done.

Here’s the REALLY cool thing about OKR’s…

There is no financial incentive attached, so we’re encouraged to set ourselves stretch objectives without the fear of missing a bonus.

At end of the quarter, objectives can be archived (even if not fully completed!) or rolled over to the next quarter (if more progress is the highest priority).

How cool is it that the focus is all about making progress toward the highest priorities and it’s no longer considered a ‘fail’ if we don’t fully complete our goals.

To easily set OKR goals in your team and maximise your forward momentum, checkout our app with a product tour

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