FAST is the New SMART

Is your annual goal setting spectacularly successful? Do SMART goals work for you and your team?

Or is it possible that your SMART goals actually lessen ambition (people set goals so they get a bonus versus pushing to achieve more), focus too narrowly on individual performance, and ignore the importance of ongoing goal discussions?

Consider setting FAST goals. According to an article in MIT Sloan Management Review, goals should be embedded in Frequent discussions, Ambitious in scope, measured by Specific metrics and milestones, and Transparent for everyone in the organization to see.

Whatever approach you use to set and manage goals, here are a few considerations:

  • Improve culture and the resulting employee engagement with goal alignment. One of the most important motivation factors is purpose. When people understand how the work they do each day contributes to a greater purpose, their commitment and engagement increase. Goal setting is an opportunity to help each person see the impact of what they do on the overall mission or purpose of the organization.
  • Measure progress and maintain focus after goal setting. Goals should be an integral part of the ongoing discussions you have with your team: in both team meetings and 1-1’s. Rather than keeping individual goals private, consider tracking goals across the organization so that everyone can see what each team member is working on. This makes it more obvious when activities are duplicative or misaligned with strategy.
  • Define success. Specificity matters, not only to quantify a goal but to create collective understanding on what success looks like. For example, in our business we set a goal to complete a website update by a specific date. Since there was a lack of clarity on what “complete” looked like, we were working toward a different outcome and finished something by the agreed upon date, but it was not what the whole team intended. Since then we’ve learned the importance of being specific in terms of dates, outcomes and what success means!

One of the comments that made a deep impression on us when we were facilitating a culture conversation was a participant who said, “I just want to know what game we are playing and how to win.” He felt that the rules kept changing and was unclear on how to be successful.

Achieving goals helps make strategy a reality. Achieving goals gives the participants a sense of accomplishment. Help your team understand the game you are playing and how to win by setting goals and applying the practices necessary to achieve them.

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