Let's Be Objective

Are you currently working on your objectives for next year? What are some of the things we need to consider in writing objectives? What makes a good objective? 

Everything occurs within a context. Understanding the context is essential to understanding the situation. Just ask someone who fired off what they thought was an innocuous e-mail only to find the interpretation by others was anything but what they expected.  

Objectives are written within a context as well. Understanding that context is key to establishing meaningful objectives. By meaningful, I mean objectives that have meaning to the organization when they are met. In order to have meaning, the objectives have to be developed in relation to the context. That is to say they must confront the reality of what the organization aspires to and the constraints it faces in trying to realize those aspirations.  

For objectives to be relevant they must relate to the level above them.  What is the overall outcome or deliverable being sought by the level above? It is hard to write an objective so tightly constrained that it unambiguously defines the results needed to make the intended contribution to the next level objectives and goals.  

Even if we possessed such talent what happens when the landscape changes? What happens if we learn something while pursuing the objective? Giving individuals a picture of how their contribution fits into the higher level outcomes helps them to maintain alignment and make real time decisions that will result in the target outcomes being realized. 

Objectives must also be written in a way that the next level can understands them. As executives we may have some individual goals but most of our work will be delegated. For the same reason it helps us to see the bigger picture we need to consider what others will see when the objectives are delegated. Can the work be decomposed into components that support understanding in delegation? 

Finally objectives should be written so they make sense to peers. If we are part of a group contributing to higher level outcomes it helps to be able to see what others are contributing. This provides a chance to ask questions, clarify roles and promote cooperation. It also provides a venue for identifying and preventing misunderstandings from occurring.  

This simple set of checks can help promote a shared understanding a reduce waste in the pursuit of objectives. Do I know what I am contributing to? Are my objectives written in a way that can be delegated? Do the objectives of my peers compliment and support each other in pursuing our higher level goals?


Joe Thompson

© 2017 Differentiating Strategies, LLC