The Tale of the Tape: What Gets Measured, Gets Done
Imagine for a moment that you set a goal to lose some weight. Assuming that you even needed to shed a few pounds (more on this in a moment), you’d probably weigh yourself to determine a starting point, and choose a weight-loss goal for yourself to reach within a certain period of time. For the sake of example, let’s say that you plan to loose 20 pounds in 12 months. Now suppose that you had no plan in place for achieving your weight-loss target (such as a change in diet or more exercise). Then imagine that after the initial weigh-in, you went the entire year without getting on the scale to gage your progress. Sounds impractical, right? But that’s exactly what takes place in many organizations from year to year, with no real movement toward achieving goals.
You’ll remember that in our scenario, we set out to loose 20 pounds over the course of a year. At face value, this seems very reasonable. As a personal goal, it may have resulted from a physician’s recommendation, or we may be looking to improve our health, lifestyle, or appearance. It would be very unlikely, however, that our doctor would recommend that every patient lose 20 pounds. And, it would be equally unlikely for every patient to want (or need) to lose that amount. This is true in business as well, where annual goals should emerge from clearly defined directives or organizational-specific needs, rather than from perceived trends or guess-work. Not every workplace will need to set yearly goals for diversity, engagement, or client satisfaction. However, a few key questions prior to goal-setting should include:
- Is the goal consistent with an organizational vision or mission?
- Has a Board directive identified the goal as a priority?
- Is there data to support the scope and nature of the goal?
- How will success be defined?
Assuming the goal is a step in the right direction, a plan should then include periodic checkpoints to measure progress. This is an opportunity to conduct a formative assessment in order to determine if adjustments to the strategies for achieving a goal need to be made. At this point, it may be time to refine the plan, but not the goal.
At the end of the time allotted to achieve the goal, a summative assessment is conducted. This will measure the extent to which the goal was achieved. Returning to the weight-loss plan, we can claim success if 20 or more pounds were lost, and we can set a new goal to lose more next year, or to maintain last year’s target weight. However, we can still find value in the process if we fell short of the goal. This value exists in knowing where we want to be, how we plan to get there (following some adjustments), and how we’ll eventually know when we’re “done.”