Quick Quiz: Can you articulate how your sales or fundraising staff’s performance goals contribute to your strategic plan or mission? Okay, that was too easy. How about your operations department? How is their
performance tied to the strategic plan? Or your accounting department, marketing, IT or administrative staff? Do you actually even have a strategic plan?
A strategic plan can be well intentioned with big ideas, a vision, a mission but may be without a lot of detail as to how it’s going to get executed. Fanatic customer support may be a core value. How do you know its being met? (Hint: measure it and ensure your employees are striving for it). A strategic plan only matters if the people responsible for making it a reality have tasks and goals on a daily, weekly or monthly basis that move the organization toward that plan. Having a strategic plan without that is like deciding that by the end of the year you will have tucked $100,000 in an IRA but never actually deciding where the money will come from or putting it in the account. Its been tried; it doesn’t work.
So how do you make everyone’s job directly contribute to the strategic plan or mission? First, of course, you have to have a strategic plan or mission with clear overall goals for the organization. Break the overall goals down into a series of SMART goals. All the SMART goals have to contribute to the plan and everyone needs his or her own set of SMART goals. SMART, of course, meaning:
- Specific: Define the new market you’re going after, the sales number you plan to hit, the cost savings you intend to realize.
- Measurable: Unless you can measure your success all along the way, it’s not really a plan. More of a wish. (See my hint in the previous paragraph)
- Achievable: When you set a goal, then you reach the goal, it builds momentum and morale. When you fall short, it creates discouragement. Set achievable goals.
- Relevant: Is it just a nice goal or does it clearly move the plan forward?
- Timely: Goals need parameters. Without a clear date by which the thing should be accomplished, you can’t really measure your success. It all becomes amorphous and, again, a wish.
Let’s say you’ve decided to go after mobile customers in order to gain a specific market share and raise your revenue by a certain amount. You need your IT people to have their own set of SMART goals to launch your responsive design website with apps that will attract customers…within a budget. Or maybe you need your HR people to outsource the IT. You need your marketing people getting the word out to the right markets about your new mobile savvy. You need your accounting people making sure your campaign isn’t swallowing your budget. And everybody needs to be checking in regularly to make sure what they’re doing continues to be aligned with everybody else and that their performance can be tied to metrics you established for your strategic plan.
Usually when a small to medium size business does this, the owner or CEO assigns each manager the task of creating performance metrics that feed into the plan. That works if you have a mature company whose managers have all been schooled in strategic planning and SMART goals. But all too often, while everyone makes his or her best effort to think through how performance measures feed in, the alignment isn’t actual, only perceived. Which is kind of like having a motor whose parts aren’t aligned, eventually the friction ends up seriously impairing your ability to get where you want to go.
Naturally, as with any process, companies have to make adjustments. It turns out that the goal wasn’t achievable, or it would have been if two of your accountants hadn’t been out sick that month. And you shift a little. As long as everyone’s performance metrics are clear, the shifts shouldn’t throw you off too much.
Here’s the beautiful thing. If you can get everyone’s performance metrics aligned with SMART goals tied into your strategic plan, you can move a lot faster and more efficiently toward the future you envision. It takes a lot of time and deep thinking to set it up, and that’s scary for a company hustling to get a product or service out the door. But the results are huge. We’ve helped a lot of companies move from first gear into third, and then up again. We’d love for you to call us.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.