As I coach executive teams around the world, one area that creates significant improvement is developing a better understanding of the nuances of goal achievement. Corporate CEOs are usually not in the dark about the potential power of goals, but many fail to truly capitalize on them.
I usually see the wheels fall off the truck in three areas. I’ll address one shortcoming in this article: not publicizing a list of corporate goals and objectives in priority order.
Without a publicist like this, people at every level of the organization are forced to guess at the most important criteria for making decisions. I believe that when executives don’t want to commit to a prioritized list, it is the
equivalent of playing “stump the chump” with their people. I’ll provide an example to illustrate. Let’s say there was an organization that had only two goals. One was to provide outstanding customer service; the other was to maximize profitability. The ranking of these two goals was never communicated to the people in the organization.
A customer calls in at 4:50 on a Friday afternoon requesting a special shipment. What response will the customer hear on the phone? If maximizing profitability is perceived to be number one by the person handling the call, the customer will hear, “We’ll get right on it first thing Monday morning.”
If providing outstanding customer service is perceived to be number one, the customer will hear, “We’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen, and it will be on your dock when you open Monday morning.” Now, assume that the request or shipment is not handled until Monday morning, and the GM gets an angry call from that customer. The GM rips into the person who decided not to ship the order, and says, “I don’t know
what you were thinking—without customers, we don’t have a business. Don’t let that ever happen again!” The person apologizes profusely and swears it won’t re-occur.
The phone rings on Friday at 4:50 just four days later. This time, everything is shipped out and arrives first thing Monday morning. On Thursday morning, the GM receives the overtime and expense report for the previous week. Furious, the GM rips into the person again: “We aren’t running a not-for-profit here! If we don’t control our costs, we won’t have a business.What part of that don’t you understand?” The person apologizes profusely and swears that they will try to do better the next time.
During seminars, when I ask, “What do you think will happen the next time the phone rings Friday at 4:50?” Many people laugh and say, “They won’t answer it.”
While that answer is humorous, my experience suggests an alternative does probably occur—because I have dealt with the aftermath. At 4:52 on the third Friday, the person who answered the phone takes off for the office of the GM and says, “What do you want me to do about this situation?”
The GM makes a decision and doesn’t think twice about it. After a while, though, the GM gets frustrated and says to me during a meeting, “You know, it drives me crazy that no one will make a decision around here. What ever happened to people being willing to take responsibility and make a simple decision?” Keep in mind that this story only revolved around two goals. Imagine the confusion and inefficiencies when there are five, or 10, or more goals being worked on simultaneously in an organization.
Before I agree to help any organization improve its decision making abilities, I ask a simple question: do you publicize a list of goals in priority order? When they say they don’t, I know where I have to begin.