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:

Make big goals feel less daunting: Long-term goals can (and should) feel a little scary and abstract. Splitting them into smaller objectives makes them more tangible and achievable, and helps teams feel more confident about their work

Create ‘line of sight’: Numerous studies show that the easier it is for employees to see the relationship between their efforts and their targets, the more motivated they become

Create ‘personalized’ feedback loops: Breaking down a larger goal allows employees to focus on what’s relevant to them and not get distracted by things that have been affected by other teams

Create faster feedback loops: Results can be seen (and acted on) quickly, and in a structured way that reduces the chance of overanalysis

As we’ll learn, TV dashboards play a crucial role in helping leaders communicate long-term goals and short-term objectives to the whole company, but first, let’s look at the basics.

If you mention the vision to anyone on your team, they’ll sort of remember but they’re not thinking about it all day long like you are. They’re thinking about that Javascript bug or whatever it might be. So you have to reiterate this vision to them over and over and over again.

Jon Crawford, former CEO, Storenvy

Clarify your long-term goals annually

Set a clear direction you want to head in Back to top
Clarify your long-term goals annually

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

Examples of goals for a company include:

  • Become the market leader
  • Double revenue
  • Achieve $1 million in monthly recurring revenue
  • Get 1 million users
  • Crush competitor X

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.

Setting goals: resources

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: “Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one, or a very few, pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes.” - Richard Rumelt, author of Good Strategy Bad Strategy

BHAG: Use Big Hairy Audacious Goals to get teams excited and inspire action

Radical Focus: “We start our journey to our dreams by wanting, but we arrive by focusing, planning and learning.” - Christina Wodtke, author of Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results

The Golden Circle: Don’t know where to start? Start with the ‘why’

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

Define objectives, key results, and supporting metrics regularly

Break your goals into manageable objectives and supporting metrics Back to top

If your goals are the destination you want to get to, your objectives, key results, and supporting metrics provide the navigation system that keeps a team on course along the way. As such, setting and re-calibrating your objectives should happen regularly throughout the year (e.g. quarterly) to give your team a chance to reflect on what’s working (or not working), and course-correct if appropriate.

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:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Time bound

In other words, SMART objectives. But there’s more to consider if you want to make objectives truly useful for your team:

  • Do your objectives contribute directly to your team or company’s goal?
  • Is it realistic to hit your objective or at least make significant progress during a business cycle?
  • If you have several objectives, are there any dependencies that might affect how you sequence work or assign resources?
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

Leading metrics

Look ahead and indicate future outcomes

Read more
Lagging metrics

Look backwards and indicate past outcomes

Lever metrics

Have been proven to directly affect an outcome

Read more
Exploratory metrics

Are speculative, but may offer extra insight

Vanity metrics

Have the feel-good factor but little connection to actual performance

Read more

By the end of this exercise, it’s not uncommon to have a handful of objectives you want to achieve in the next business cycle, along with several key results for each objective, and some choice supporting metrics. These are the building blocks for your TV dashboards, but as we’ll see in the next section, there are some decisions to be made over what exactly should be shared with your team.

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

Create dashboards

What should go on your dashboards? Back to top

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?

Well, no.

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.

Goal
Dashboard
Objective
Key results
+
Supporting metrics
Dashboard
Objective
Key results
+
Supporting metrics
Dashboard
Objective
Key results
+
Supporting metrics

Questions to ask whilst building dashboards

What’s the main focus?

Decide which metric or metrics are most important to the team and should be given prominence

What behaviours do I want to encourage?

Think about specific metrics that could trigger desirable actions more than others

Is there anything that can be removed?

Less is more when it comes to making dashboards easy to understand

What could spark conversations within the team?

Consider fast-moving metrics that could get the team talking day to day about their numbers

Is it worth adding fun information or vanity metrics to spark interest?

They might not be functional, but vanity metrics can get passers-by engaged with your dashboards

Is there anything that needs special consideration because of team culture?

Some individuals thrive off hard performance data. Others need wider metrics to know they’re contributing to a bigger picture

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

Use TV dashboards day to day

How to use TV dashboards in your routine to get maximum results Back to top

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.

Geckoboard TV dashboards

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.

Geckoboard TV dashboards

Tell stories

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.

Improve

TV dashboards can help teams understand what’s moving the needle and improve your objective-setting for the next cycle Back to top

Dashboard iteration is a process that keeps on going forever and ever. When we were five people and then 20 and now 51, the metrics changed because the whole business is different. The same metrics we used five years ago or two years ago or a year ago don’t necessarily work today. Your best past business practices can become your worst future business practices.

Alejandro Pérez, CEO of Komet Sales

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.

Improve process

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.