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You want better outcomes? Get ALIGNED!

Line of sight – according to the Wiktionary it means “a straight line along which an observer has a clear view.” It is also an important axiom when developing organizational, departmental and individual goals. Kevin Dee, CEO of Eagle Professional Resources, recently wrote a great piece on the annual budgeting process that I feel really encapsulates this feeling. He pointed out that in many companies, their struggles with the annual budgeting process are due to the fact that they “employ a less than strategic approach to their planning…..managers are allowed to feel like they don’t actually “own” the plan. Essentially in these types of companies, the approach is to “pick a number, share that number (maybe) and hope they hit that number.”

I believe the same holds true when it comes to organizational strategic planning and goal setting. Far too many organizations develop a whole slew of great sounding goals based on the competing interests from a variety of department heads. These are then glommed together and tagged with a few general measurements to show how “serious” they are about the goals. Employees are then supposed to buy-in to and support these goals, through their own interpretation (work execution), osmosis and blind luck. Basically, the strategic planning process becomes a check in the box exercise to say that there is an organizational plan that has been developed and is followed.

MissionReality is that shortly after the planning process, these strategic goals gather dust on a shelf somewhere while the organization goes back to its daily business. The plan is never revisited again until next year at which point in time organizational and departmental heads are amazed as to why these “strategic” goals weren’t accomplished during the year!

Here is what is missing in this process (aside from the obvious communication) – ALIGNMENT. You need to have alignment from all levels of your organization with your strategic plan – from the top (organizational) to departmental to individual employees. Here is where the previous mentioned line of site comes into play. Individual employees need that line of site into organizational and departmental goals so as to feel engaged and understand where they fit in, organizationally speaking. Your employees want to know how what they do “fits” in with what the organization is trying to accomplish. In order to ensure this, the process itself doesn’t have to be complicated it can be as simple as:

1. The organizational leader(s) establish the organizational vision and mission.

2. Strategic plans and goals are set in support of realizing this vision and mission.

3. Specific objectives and measurements are established in support of the strategic goals so as to be able to measure success or failure.

4. Departmental heads then establish their own departmental level goals in support of the organizational goals. This can also be done with input from managers and employees.

5. In turn, employee goals and objectives are established and measurements of success defined in support of the departmental goals.

This may be a bit over simplistic way of looking at it, but following this basic process ensures three critical elements are supported in your strategic planning process…all of which are vital to its success:

1. Alignment – because the goal planning starts at the top, is cascaded down, and is supported from the ground up, you will have organizational alignment. Each level feeds into and support the next. Your employees are all working in support of the department objectives and the departments are working in support of corporate objectives.

2. Communication – by involving department heads, managers and staff, everyone is aware of what the organization is trying to achieve. Because individual employees are working on goals that are in support of the company they can see where they fit in AND they know how their success will be measured. The process, when done right, becomes iterative throughout the year as there is a constant requirement to refer back to “the plan” and adjust/readjust where appropriate to make sure everything is still in alignment (see point #1).

3. Accountability – ultimately, with line of site, communication AND with effectively written goals (with measurements) you have accountability. According to Kevin, “everyone needs to be accountable so that the culture is one of pursuing success, not one of developing excuses for failures.” While he was referring to the budgeting process, I feel it also holds true for strategic planning and goal setting.

So there you have it, a fairly simple 5 step acid test to make sure that you are aligned with your organizational goal setting and that the company will realize its desired outcomes. Make sure your employees have line of site into and involvement with the process and that way everyone is accountable. Accountability will be the critical piece that is key to your organizational success. Make sure that your organizational goal setting process is an iterative one with a continuous feedback loop. That is the only way you will know for sure you are truly staying in alignment and working towards achieving your desired organizational outcomes. As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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