How to achieve your goals
When employees aren’t aligned around company goals, productivity suffers.
Time is wasted on things that don’t contribute towards the company’s long-term goals. Work becomes inefficient as teams diverge. Staff become demotivated as they lose sight of what they’re working towards. And it becomes harder to fight inertia when changes need to be made.
For fast-growing companies that need to hit ambitious goals predictably, it’s crucial to keep everyone productive and moving in the same direction.
The key to this is breaking big, long-term goals into smaller objectives that teams can contribute to and use to assess the quality of their work regularly. This helps to:
At its core, a goal is something aspirational you’d like to achieve as a team in the medium to long term. Goals are typically set for a year or more, and are big, ambitious, and perhaps even scary, so they inspire teams and focus effort in a direction that benefits the company.
Deciding on a goal tends to require some deep thinking from a leadership team, and will take into account things like wider company strategy, current market conditions, recent performance, company growth, deep data analysis and experience of what’s worked in the past. They can take some time to define, but it’s worth it.
Whether you’re defining goals for your whole company or just your team, countless studies, thought leaders and high performing companies profess the benefits of having clear goals in place:
- Better understanding amongst employees about the direction of the company
- Improved productivity as managers and employees focus their efforts on the right things
- Boosts in motivation as employees feel part of a shared mission
Whilst having goals in mind isn’t essential for using TV dashboards, they help hugely with keeping everything focused, and giving structure to the next stage of the journey: defining your objectives, key results, and supporting metrics.
Don’t necessarily start with the most important thing, don’t try to find the perfect metric, think about what gives you an emotional reaction, and it starts to get fun that way. Once it’s fun then it just starts rolling. Let people find their passion, and then try to guide it toward a business outcome.Max Keeler, Chief Projects Officer, The Motley Fool
|Goals||Long term||Broad, qualitative, often expressed as an idea|
|Objectives||Change quarterly||Specific, quantifiable, ambitious|
|Key results||Change with objectives||Measurable milestones towards your objectives|
|Supporting metrics||Change with key results||Help with monitoring progress towards key results|
Unlike goals, which are longer term and intangible, your objectives represent tangible outcomes you need to accomplish in the short to medium term (say, over a quarter) to make progress towards your goal. Good objectives are:
In other words, SMART objectives. But there’s more to consider if you want to make objectives truly useful for your team:
|Goals||Objective 1||Objective 2|
|Double revenue by the end of the year||Generate 3,000 sales leads by July 1st||Improve SQL to Win conversion rate to 20%|
|Achieve $1 million in monthly recurring revenue||Improve average revenue per user to $100 by April 1st||Reduce churn to 3%|
|Achieve best-in-class service||Improve 30 day CSAT scores to 90%||Reduce first reply time to 2 hours|
In addition, each objective should have a set of key results attached to it. These are quantifiable milestones for the cycle that should aim to answer the question “how are we going to achieve the objective?” A good number of key results to aim for is around three to five per objective. Any more and you’ll risk losing focus.
On top of your key results, consider any other metrics that might help your work day to day. Perhaps there are signals that would help your team course-correct, or things that prevent gaming of key results.
These are your supporting metrics.
Although not essential, and not directly attached to your success, supporting metrics add extra context and can bring your key results to life by:
- Showing the impact a team is having throughout a week or day
- Allowing for quick comparisons and decisions
- Showing when things are in or out of an acceptable operating range
- Providing quick insights about what’s having an effect and what isn’t
Types of supporting metric
Teams and individuals should understand your daily activity metrics and that what you do individually connects to the greater whole. Everyone wants that, especially when you’re at a small company. Being able to see the direct impact of your work on the company is truly motivating and creates a level of accountability for the business’ success at an individual level.Alexandra Mangold, Director of Operations and Analytics at Brazen
The main job of TV dashboards is to keep teams aligned around their goals and provide them with key, real-time information that can help them achieve the objectives they’ve set out at the beginning of a business cycle.
With well-defined objectives and a set of key results and supporting metrics, all you need to do now is put them all onto a TV dashboard, right?
Your dashboards do more than simply surface all your data.
They aid focus by showing what’s important to the team at a given time, and perhaps more importantly, by leaving out the things that aren’t important. They help everyone understand the pulse of the business.
They help managers tell better stories about what’s going on with certain numbers, and relate them to team performance day to day. They also help teams see what other teams are working on.
A busy, cluttered dashboard containing irrelevant information is unlikely to have an impact, so it pays to make the best use of the space available and avoid adding anything that isn’t related to your objectives. Clarity is key.
Above all, your dashboards should be focused around what you want to achieve; consider dividing dashboards up so each one relates to specific objectives and their related key results and supporting metrics.
Questions to ask whilst building dashboards
Relevant dashboards are visible to the relevant people and it allows everyone to see the data at a comfortable glance from their seat. My dev team even have two mirroring screens displaying the same KPIs so nobody has to turn around to see their data dashboard.Alejandro Pérez, CEO of Komet Sales
With TV dashboards up and running around a workplace, there are some things leaders can do to make sure they’re making a difference.
Incorporate them into regular team catch-ups
Consider running daily standups or weekly catch-ups next to your TV dashboard so important team numbers are available as you talk through your current streams of work.
Ask for feedback
Regularly ask teams if the information on their dashboards still feels actionable and relevant for what you’re aiming for, and don’t be afraid to swap out metrics that aren’t useful. This is all part of the process of fine-tuning your dashboard and having a deeper understanding of what can help your team achieve results.
Frequently assess whether your objectives and key results are appropriate
Defining your objectives and key results and applying targets to certain metrics is as much of an art as it is a science. Inevitably there will be times when you’ve aimed too high or too low. Staying aware of this can allow leaders to make adjustments to targets where appropriate, and get a heads-up if things are going in an unexpected direction.
Never underestimate the power of storytelling as a way to help your team connect with your numbers and to reinforce what’s important.
Take the opportunity to have an informal discussion with your team when:
- A key result has been achieved
- A metric is overperforming
- A metric is underperforming
- A metric hasn’t done anything despite your team’s best efforts
- A trend has changed
- A metric has dipped or spiked
- Someone in the team has performed particularly well
Share around the company
Although not specifically designed for it, TV dashboards can be a useful way to share a consolidated view of important numbers with people in other teams, and other stakeholders.
Building dashboards is an ongoing process
Your dashboards should always be relevant to the current objectives you’re working towards, so at a minimum you should look to change them as you update objectives at the beginning of a new business cycle. You might also want to tweak your dashboards (or create new ones):
- After hiring someone
- If you’re easily achieving your key results or struggling to move a number
- At the start of a new campaign or project
- In the run-up to a new season if you’re a seasonal business
Teams will quickly begin to understand what metrics are useful to keep an eye on day to day, so consider your TV dashboards to be fluid, rather than fixed, and embrace their feedback.
At the end of a business cycle, take time to reflect on what’s worked and what hasn’t. Review what initiatives actually had an impact and dig deeper into relevant data using other analytics or business intelligence systems if necessary to fill out the picture.
Planning for the next business cycle, you’ll have a much better understanding of the objectives, key results, and metrics that move a team closer to achieving its goals.