“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra.
Did you set goals for 2022?
Were they written down?
How often did you review your progress and implement course corrections?
How effectively did those goals guide your progress this year?
The Importance of Goals
Many of us have goals floating around in our heads but don’t go through a formal process to articulate those goals. I am a firm believer in setting goals for yourself, writing them down, and regularly assessing your progress against those goals. One study found that people were 42% more likely to achieve their goals simply by writing them down.
Without clear goals, we spend our energy on the wrong priorities. It is easy to thrash or bounce from one shiny object to the next without seeing anything through.
Goal-setting may be a part of your organization’s process. Is it a part of your personal process? For the past two years, I’ve set quarterly goals for myself. I’ve monitored and course-corrected against those goals every week. That process has fueled a higher personal level of success and fulfillment than I have ever experienced before.
Many organizations set annual goals, and there is value in doing so. Unfortunately, most organizations stop there. A twelve-month goal is hard to wrap your head around. Often when we set about tackling the priorities of the day, annual goals are too abstract to focus our attention on the right things. Also, we tend to review annual goals infrequently. Many of us don’t look at them again until it’s time to review them at the end of the year.
The sweet spot for goals is quarterly. Setting goals for the next 90 days gives you a tangible time horizon. Think how quickly three months fly by. When crafted well, your quarterly goals move you deliberately forward to ensure you attain your annual goals, which ensures you are executing against your broader strategy.
So now is the time of year to set your annual goals and then set your goals for the next quarter (January through March 2023). I suggest you have these finalized by the first week of January.
How should you articulate your goals? I recommend the OKR framework.
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
OKRs are a framework for goal-setting described by John Doerr in his book Measure What Matters. OKRs have been successfully leveraged by organizations like Google, The Gates Foundation, and Bono’s ONE. Here is how they are described on the What Matters website:
- An Objective is what you want to accomplish. A good Objective is significant, concrete, action-oriented, and inspirational. Can be set annually or over an even longer term.
- Key Results are how you will accomplish it. Good Key Results are specific, timebound, aggressive yet realistic, measurable, and verifiable. Can be set quarterly and evolve as work progresses.
Let’s look at an example. Jane is a Director looking to get promoted to a Vice President role. Her 360 feedback indicates she is highly respected by her direct reports but less by her peers. Feedback suggests she does not communicate well with them, and their trust is low. Jane sets an objective to address this:
- Objective: Strengthen my horizontal (peer) relationships
To accomplish this objective, Jane identifies a set of key results she will execute over the next 90 days:
- Key Result 1: Assess the health of my key stakeholder relationships using the relationship assessment matrix.
- Key Result 2: Identify the top three relationship opportunities.
- Key Result 3: Seek feedback from everyone via a listening tour.
- Key Result 4: Implement corrective actions based on the feedback.
- Key Result 5: Collect additional feedback at the end of the quarter and refresh the relationship assessment matrix.
Jane has identified five key results which, if executed, should accomplish the objective of strengthening her peer relationships. Next quarter, Jane may pick different relationships to focus on.
Here is an example set of OKRs in a Google Sheet template. Save this as a copy and replace the content with your OKRs if you like the format.
As we mentioned above, the simple act of writing your goals down makes you 42% more likely to achieve them. That likelihood becomes much higher if you regularly review your progress and take corrective action.
I recommend implementing a weekly review cycle. For me, this is part of my weekly review, scheduled for the last few hours of my workday on Fridays. In this review cycle, review each OKR for the current quarter. Update the status, and if appropriate, add a note indicating what corrective action you need. Then update your task list to ensure you take the next step required to deliver on your OKRs.
If you have a set of annual OKRs, monitor and update them at least once per month.
Putting It All Together
If this is new for you, I encourage you to focus on a single objective for the next quarter. Build the habit and expand upon it over time.
- Select an objective you want to focus on
- Identify three to five key results that, if achieved, would accomplish your objective or make concrete progress at a minimum.
- Write them down using the OKR template I provided.
- Schedule time once per week to review your progress and take corrective action.
- Schedule time in late March to repeat the cycle.
One last word of encouragement. Don’t get too attached to goal achievement. Let the goals focus your effort, and enjoy the journey.
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