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Goal, Set, and Match: Navigating Goals in a Global Enterprise

For a long time, HR professionals have been debating the merits of different goals frameworks. Every framework has its pros and cons, with top candidates being OKRs, SMART goals, and Agile goal frameworks. So, what’s the right framework for your organization and how do you know when it’s not working for you?

OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, were the star of the noughties with many tech companies claiming them as their keys to success. Interestingly, as companies matured, many walked away claiming the OKR approach was no longer workable in their bigger environments. 

SMART has by far been our longest-serving friend — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound — and never fails to make sense in training webinars, but can prove too rigid for an organization that wants a more iterative, agile experience. 

The Agile framework, discussed in an earlier blog, allows for adaptation throughout the year, but for some, may fail to present enough predictability about what the organization is actually going to accomplish, making it difficult to plan or to measure results. 

Picking what’s right for your teams

The key to finding the goals framework that is right for your organization is to ensure the framework reflects the way you work. 

The reality of most workplaces is that there are myriad ways of working across the organization. Your sales organization may need a very different approach than your finance or technology departments. If your technology team is used to working in an Agile environment, with a flexible approach to how they both set and evaluate goals, then adapting to SMART may be a real challenge for them.

If your organization is matrixed, or projects run under project managers with no people responsibility, then rethinking how goals can be assigned, shared, and tracked may be your biggest opportunity to add value as an HR business partner. 

What framework should we choose?

Each framework has its own strengths and weaknesses, and you should choose the one that best fits your specific needs. To decide which goal-setting framework is right for your organization or department, you should consider factors like:

  1. Objectives: What are the overall goals and objectives of your organization or department? Does the framework align with these objectives?

  2. Culture: What is the culture of the group? Does the framework align with the culture, mindset, and values of the employees?

  3. Resources: Do you have the necessary resources, including time and personnel, to effectively implement the framework?

  4. Flexibility: Does the framework allow for flexibility in goal-setting and progress tracking, or is it rigid and prescriptive?

  5. Integration: Does the framework integrate well with other tools and processes already in use in your organization or department?

Once you have considered these factors, in collaboration with your key managers, you can make an informed decision on which goal-setting framework is right for your needs.  

Sticking with SMART

SMART goals make sense when:

  1. Clarity and specificity are important, with well-defined and quantifiable goals.

  2. Structure is necessary, with a clear and organized approach to goal-setting and progress tracking.

  3. Accountability and transparency are priorities, making sure that everyone involved is aware of their responsibilities.

  4. Long-term planning is necessary in order to develop a clear plan for achieving goals over a longer period of time.

  5. Traditional approaches are preferred, providing familiarity to managers with a straightforward and established approach.

The Agile approach

Agile goals are a good choice for a goals framework when:

  1. Feedback loops and rapid iteration are important, to identify areas for improvement and create new action items.

  2. Collaboration is necessary among multiple stakeholders to work out solutions and achieve their goals.

  3. Flexibility is desired, to allow adaptation and respond quickly to changing circumstances or market conditions.

  4. Continuous learning and improvement are a priority, requiring the ability to assess and adjust goals and processes.

  5. The focus is on delivering value to customers and stakeholders.

Pushing company goals with OKRs

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are a good fit when:

  1. Focus on results is most important, prioritizing tangible results and quantifiable outcomes over the achievement of specific tasks.

  2. Alignment of goals and strategies is needed, to provide a clear link between goals and overall strategy.

  3. Meeting overall company goals is the priority, with less emphasis on micromanaging individual actions.

  4. Regular progress tracking is needed, with a structured approach to setting and tracking goals.

  5. Clarity and communication are important, with open communication and transparency about goals and progress.

Flexibility in a framework

The above are not the only approaches to goal-setting. The key point is that one size may not fit all for your organization and that there may be a requirement to have flexibility within your framework—especially in a large global organization. While the company as a whole may abide by one particular framework, consider that nuances may need to be accommodated throughout the organization to allow each group to work in a way that’s meaningful and effective for them. 

That might mean facilitating your project managers to be able to cascade goals to their project team members, even when they don’t have people management responsibilities. It might mean facilitating the evolution of reiterative goals throughout the year, rather than “blocking” goals windows. Or it might mean that employees have the opportunity to have multiple goals across different managers and functions. 

Whatever your needs are, flexibility within your framework will facilitate goals to be more relevant to your people and they are the processes they need to focus on. 

Ready to transform how performance is managed in your company? Contact beqom for information or to request a demo.

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