#180 from R&D
Innovator Volume 4, Number 10
How to Make
Objectives More Effective
Mr. Meyer, principal of the Meyer Group in Scotts Valley, California, speaks and writes on management issues, such as obtaining better results from fewer resources. He can be reached at (408) 439-9607. www.MeyerGrp.com
As a manager, you
understand your own objectives; but how do you define objectives
for your staff to maximize their effectiveness? After fifteen years of pain and triumph in learning about
productivity and how objectives are defined, I recommend two tools
that have proven to be useful to managers:
1) an early objectives test and 2) an importance test. If those who report to you use these easy-to-remember tests,
your own effectiveness is sure to increase.
Ideally, you want
the employee to attain the objective without relying on you at
every step. You also
want the employee to feel ownership of the objective.
should have the characteristics outlined in the box below:
for a Good ObjectiveóA Memory Tool
It must be Specific,
It must be Measurable,
It must be Attainable,
There need to be
It must be Timed,
It must be IMPORTANT
be SMART and IMPORTANT to create results.
To explain how
the tests work, here are some examples of good and not so good
ďQuality is job one.Ē
It feels good, but isnít a very good objective.
Itís not specific.
Itís surely not measurable, and itís not clear
whether itís attainable.
Resources are totally undefined, and it isnít timed.
In other words, since thereís no time limit on the
objective, it will never be done.
Occasionally, I find a manager who gives out objectives
along the lines of: ďDo
whatever it takes to make this happen!Ē
Thatís a problem for the employee.
He or she canít know whether the manager really
means it. Since there
are going to be boundaries (can the employee murder to achieve
targets?), this statement isnít specific enough.
Will the resources be unlimited?
It defies measurement.
Itís certainly hard to attain if you havenít got
a definition of the problem.
How will you know when youíve achieved ďthisĒ? Itís not timed at all.
We canít tell if itís important, without going
back to management, and that makes it harder for the employee to
feel ownership of the objective.
We might ask an employee to:
ďIncrease thermal output by 62 percent without increasing
certainly possible to say that itís specific and measurable.
The questions about attainable and resources
are dependent on time.
If increasing output by 62 percent is a one-week objective,
youíll need a different list of resources, and even then it may
not be attainable. If
itís a five-year objective, you may need fewer resources to make
it attainable. The
objective would pass the tests and be improved with a time limit.
ďBring the new system up to specs by the end of the
month.Ē Thatís specific,
measurable, certainly attainable.
The resources can be defined and quickly determined
to be available or not. Thereís
a time limit, and it seems important.
examples, the last passes all tests, except possibly for
importance. One of
the hardest tasks is knowing how to tell if something really is
Do You Know Whatís ďImportantĒ?
defined by a specific tool: success
criteria. In other
words, you canít really know whether somethingís important
unless you know that it meets specific success criteria.
We have developed two questions that will help you explain
How will whatever it is look like when youíre
When youíre done, what will you have that you didnít
The answer to the
second question is really what you want. If you donít know, then you have no way of telling
yourself, your employees, or your colleagues whatís important. If success doesnít make more things possible than
before, or tasks easier than they were before, then why are you
spending precious resources on it?
Waste hurts more than budgets.
For example, at
IBM, I worked under Jim for two years. When he came in and took over the division, he decided that
he needed to move very aggressively in little time. Jim hit like a whirlwind.
In the first few weeks, people were busy, working extra
hours, and feeling very proud.
This pride came from the sense of activity and from the
fact they were working with somebody who was exciting and focused.
At the end of a month, people started bringing results back
to Jim. Then morale
As work came
back, Jim rejected it as off-target or incomplete.
He repeatedly sent the staff back for rework.
People walked into his office very excited and charged.
They walked out tired and confused.
Five months into
Jimís tenure, attitudes suddenly started to transform.
Energy levels increased.
Jim was sending work back less and less.
Without any visible reason, productivity went up,
enthusiasm went way up, and Jim was getting the results he wanted
almost every time. He
was pleased. He
couldnít explain it, and didnít mind that he couldnít.
He just assumed that it was because of his masterful
performance as a manager.
happened was something else.
It started in an interview published in the fifth month.
He was asked what the strategy was for the upcoming year.
When he answered, it was the first time heíd told anyone
what he hoped to have changed at the end of his first year.
When we read
this, we finally knew what our success criteria would be.
With this, we brought the right answers to Jim.
Frustration was down.
We were all much happier.
Knowing what was
important helped us avoid working on the wrong stuff, and that
reduced the time it took to get things done.
Less waste of time and other resources increased morale
division went on to put out an enormous amount of high-quality
material in a very short period.
Time-Frame Should You Use?
Whatís a good
time period to measure? A
year-long objective isnít productive.
My wife taught me this.
If she asks me to clean out the garage within a year, I
wonít be focusing on it right away.
How could I ask others for more than Iím willing to do?
The best success
comes when you measure objectives over short periods.
When you set the objective, set it to be reviewed in a
specific time. For
most of us, six weeks is more than long enough to get into trouble
and forget our priorities. Measuring
and rewarding success each six weeks has the wonderful effect of
reinforcing your values with little effort on your part.
Part of the
responsibility of a good manager is to help people get rewards.
The flip side is that you have the responsibility to
immediately let them see when they miss your success criteria.
If you set short and clear time objectives, you transfer
ownership to the employee. You
can reward success because itís measured.
be defining objectives in a way that maximizes your staffís
effectiveness and, simultaneously, decreases the time you spend on
managing people? The
SMART and IMPORTANT tools and success criteria can do precisely