Achieving success is about taking actions and decisions in the right direction. This is where objectives come into play.
Objectives are made for each and everyone to stay focused on their mission and to efficiently prioritize their daily work. They are first and foremost a forward-looking management tool, not a meter to measure performance once it’s too late.
At the end of the period, it shouldn't be a surprise for anyone whether objectives have been met or not. The discussion should rather focus on understanding factors of success or failure and better build future objectives.
The winning formula
In short, set clear objectives and follow up.
- Half the job is clearly defining objectives and getting buy-in.
- The other half? Following up. That is to say your capacity to regularly get your team members to reflect on the progress made and to remove roadblocks for them when needed.
- Co-built between manager and team members - to set well defined objectives and enable mutual buy-in
- 3 to 5 objectives maximum for each team member - which can include personal development objectives
- Clear, measurable and time-based
- 3 to 6 months time frame maximum
- Consistent with the company goals and your team’s objectives
- Status frequently updated - once a month making a status update and a qualitative comment as a conversation starter for example
What is the right number of objectives ?
There’s no magic number but we recommend setting from 3 to 5 objectives. More than that may lead to over-extending yourself or your team, diffusing efforts and losing focus.
Having only one or two objectives may indicate that objectives are too high level or consolidated which will make them very difficult to follow.
What exactly is an objective?
Objectives are medium to long-term targets that you or your team want to reach. Setting an objective is basically answering two different questions.
- First, where do I want to go? This is the objective itself.
- Then, how and when do I get there? This provides the description of the objective and its end date.
Good objectives should therefore always be composed of a short title, a description and a due date.
How to write a good objective?
When drafting your objectives’ titles, you should try to make it short and ambitious. It will help you and your team to remind them and get inspired by them. Also try to express endpoints and use tangible and unambiguous terms. It should be obvious to an observer whether or not an objective has been achieved.
How to make an objective measurable ?
To write useful objectives’ descriptions, we recommend to determine around 3 key results per objective. The key results should express measurable milestones which, if achieved, will directly advance the objective.
Put differently, it means that the key results of each objective should describe outcomes, not activities. This will help reach objectives and follow progress over time.
When to review objectives ?
Regular objectives’ review is the key to make them live and maximize the chances of reaching them. When objectives are reviewed only once a year for example, they would probably have been forgotten in between: it would be as if you and your team did not have any objective at all.
The best approach is to make regular and quick reviews every month or quarter. This is usually a useful exercise to help you reconnect your day-to-day with the broader picture. Don’t make it a big thing, just check where you and your team stand compared to your objectives.
How to review objectives ?
The best way to review an objective is to make a status update and associate a qualitative comment to it. The status measures the confidence in achieving the objective on the due date.
We recommend using three simple categories for the status, for example : On track, Behind or At risk. Because a status update doesn't say it all, it is important to also associate a qualitative comment to it.