27 July 2015
We achieve our strategic goals by setting objectives and using them to motivate our teams to succeed: who would argue with that? John Bowen would.
I'm not arguing against objective setting per se, but rather about the stupidities that I see in larger organisations where there is so little cohesion in setting objectives that they conflict for whole point of setting objectives is to get a group of individuals pulling together to make something happen. It might be about profit or service delivery or a project; the aim doesn't matter, what does matter is that you get where you want to go.
In a small organisation there is less of an issue because everyone should be able to see whether or not the plan is working and can also see how everyone else is contributing. This is where good leaders excel because they can handle the problems of differing performance levels and avoid the conflicts. In a well led team the over achievers actively help the under achievers. Team games or sports show this in sharp relief and you only have to look at the thirst round of the FA Cup to see examples of elite teams of prima donnas having been turned over by a determined team of minnows who play together.
In a larger organisation what you find too often is that the prima donnas in one or more of the senior teams are more focussed on beating each other than in beating the competition and the level of strategic drift that you can encounter is staggering. Yes these organisations are often successful, but think about how much better they could do if the various functions were not engaged in, if not civil war, behaving like petulant teenagers.
Objectives should be about performance, but not just focussed on the individual's performance. Instead they should be about how that individual contributes to delivery of the organisation's performance and there should be some clear linkage from the individual, through the team that they are part of, to the organisational strategy.
If you think about how many hours get wasted on dreaming up SMART objectives and measuring them over the course of a year and add in the stress and anxiety that this stuff causes many people you start to get a feel for how much better life might be if we threw it all away and went for a nice and simple system that got everyone pulling for the same goals.
In some organisations there is a mini industry built around the objectives and appraisals process; that alone is an overhead that is worth losing for the saved cost will go straight to the bottom line and generate profits in the private sector, more to spend of services in the public and more to do good with in the third sector.
What's holding you back? Oh sorry, of course it's not in your objectives
John Bowen is an FM consultant