Many change initiatives fail for want of a clear and unambiguous set of objectives.
Why Program Objectives Are Important
Your desire to move your organization towards a new way of working will remain just a wish unless you set specific change program objectives and create a change management plan for achieving those objectives. Working with your key stakeholders to flesh out unambiguous and measurable objectives will set your program off on the right track.
How can goal setting help? To begin with, the two-way dialogue involved in setting goals helps to get all stakeholders on the same page, uncovering hidden assumptions and misunderstandings.
Secondly, inviting and encouraging stakeholders to participate in decision-making about group objectives gives them a genuine “stake” in the result. The act of participation in joint decision-making builds relationships based on trust and mutual respect. These alliances you form at the outset of the change program will help you ride through some of the most seemingly impenetrable obstacles.
Communicating and agreeing the objective for a set of activities also puts it into a larger context. Giving stakeholders this sense of meaning and purpose will get them motivated to walk that extra mile for you when times get tough.
Setting goals will also make your change management planning easier. Challenging tasks can appear overwhelming, encouraging people to give up at the seeming enormity of the job at hand. By setting an overarching objective that is measurable, the seemingly impossible task can be broken up into manageable chunks.
Lastly, it is only through setting a measurable goal that you, your sponsors and your team will ever know that your change program was a success. The goal, in effect, defines the success criteria for the project in a way that everyone can understand.
Goal Setting Tips
I have seen many examples of ineffective goals that only serve to confuse people and hamper the change program. Here are some basic tips for making sure that your program goals are working for you and not against you.
Are your goals linked to the mission, vision and strategic direction of your organization or organizational unit? Or are they peripheral to the organization, ready to be jettisoned when resources get tight or a new fad comes along?
Are they SMART goals? That is, are they stated so that they are:
- Time framed
For complex change initiatives, are your goals balanced? Do you have goals in each of the appropriate dimensions of your change program?
- Information Systems
Are your goals broken down into manageable chunks? Doing so allows you and your team to achieve some quick wins that will further spur motivation. Are your goals devolved to the various units or levels within your organization (division, department, team)? Have you engaged employees in devolving these goals and in developing detailed strategies for achieving them?
Have you communicated the goals often and using a variety of methods to all relevant levels within your organization? Does your Stakeholder Communication Plan include communication of goals and objectives?
Have you set a baseline from which to compare future performance? A baseline is usually today’s performance result or the result from the previous reporting period. Or will your sponsors and stakeholders be left wondering, and arguing, whether the change effort was worth it?