Why Company Goals Don’t Turn Into Employee Goals
KPIs, OKRs, and BHAGs aren’t that great at motivating or evaluating people. Here’s what works instead.
An excerpt from Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. One of the three best business books of 2019.
Goals are everywhere at work — it’s hard to find many companies that do not engage in some sort of annual or semi-annual goal-setting regimen. At some point in the year, the organization’s senior leaders set their goals for the upcoming six or 12 months, and then share them with their teams. Each team member looks at each of the leader’s goals and sets a mini-goal that reflects some part of the leader’s goal. This continues down the chain, until you, and every other employee, has a set of goals that are mini-versions of some larger goal further up in the organization.
As the year unfolds, you may well be asked to record what percentage of your goals you’ve completed. This “percent complete” data is then aggregated into bigger and bigger groups so that the company can, at any point during the year, say things like, “65% of our teams have completed 46% of their goals. We need to speed up!”
And, at the end of the year, you’re asked to write a brief self-assessment reflecting how you feel you’ve done on each goal, after which your team leader will review this assessment and add her own, in some cases also saying whether she thinks each goal was actually met, or not. She’ll input all this information into the company performance management system, whereupon it’ll serve as a permanent record of your performance for the year, and will guide your pay, promotion opportunities, and even continued employment.
And, in the era of the smartphone, once-a-year goal-setting has been deemed Not Enough, and so your phone will soon be dramatically upping the frequency of all this goal-setting, assessing, and tracking, if it hasn’t done so already — all because we have come to believe that the best companies cascade goals.
The names we give these goals have changed over the years. We started with MBOs, or Management by…