Sticky solutions to your everyday business challenges
Question: My company starts the year by assigning every employee 10 – 12 goals. We do a pretty good job of keeping on track with those for a couple of months before we start to derail. New projects come up. Client demands change. Or, the CEO just decides to take us in a new direction mid-year. By the end of the year, almost nothing on our performance review resembles what we did during the year. Do you have any suggestions for how to get out of this pattern? P.S. I’m the Director of HR!
Answer: Just a few years ago, we would have suggested something along these lines: narrow your goals down to the 4 to 6 that are most important, then track performance against those goals each month. That would get everyone paddling in the same direction, keep the CEO in touch with progress made on big goals, and give you the information needed to negotiate mid-year changes. Today, however, we are seeing a profound shift in this area for three reasons: 1) the business landscape is no longer stable and predictable, 2) annual performance reviews absorb too much effort and rarely foster productivity or improvement, and 3) employees who get frequent feedback can course correct quickly.
Many companies like yours still rely on processes that worked well in a more predictable economy. Strategic plans, annual budgets, and annual performance reviews were part of the textbook MBA long-term business strategy. Today, the pace of market and technology changes require us to get rid of linear models and adapt a model that blends long-term strategic direction with short-term opportunism.
Take the time to learn about trends in how organizations are shifting their processes, then sit down with your CEO and CFO to discuss what changes are right for your company. Chances are, they’re feeling the same frustrations as you. The CEO is probably frustrated that the company is moving too slow, and the CFO is likely ready to discuss dropping annual budgets in favor of rolling forecasts. To help you get started, read Anthony Mills’ article, “Strategic Planning is Dead. Embrace Responsive Growth,” and SHRM’s “Is the Annual Performance Review Dead?” The titles may be morbid, but both articles offer sound reasoning for the trending away from predictability and toward adaptability.