Many teams hire me because they want to grow faster. They are highly motivated, but they typically lack the experience, structure, and discipline to determine how to implement their strategy. As an outside set of experienced eyes, I can often see obstacles more easily than they can.
One common situation is that leadership teams have set manyfinancial and performance goals, but the rest of the teams continually fail to meet these targets. The targets--revenues, gross margins, units shipped, conversation rates, and billable hours--are good, but they haven't wrapped these targets into a story that offers inspiration and meaning behind the success to the team.
What they've failed to do is provide a theme to the goals. A theme demonstrates how the targets tie into the organizational purpose and it helps them see how the success of their team can make a clear impact. A good theme has a few parts. Here is a process I use to elevate my objectives to be more than just a set of numbers.
1. Know your purpose.
Before you can create a theme, you need to know your purpose. Why are you in business? What differences do you want to make in your customers' lives? A good theme will connect to some aspect of your why and show that when you achieve your targets you will be closer to realizing that purpose.
2. Select your priorities.
It's important to build your theme around your priorities. The key here is focus. Select just a few things to prioritize and make it clear that everything else is a back burner item during this time. You can't be highly successful if you're doing too many things at once.
3. Choose your metric.
Once you have your priorities, choose one metric to focus on. This is a number that, if changed, will indicate that you're achieving your goals. I like to avoid revenue metrics and focus more on subtle aspects. For example, if a priority is sales, aim for a specific number of new ideal accounts, of new qualified leads, or a conversation target. Find a number which measures a process rather than a result.
4. Set your targets.
Now you're going to set your targets for success. Are you trying to get to 50 or 500? Maybe you want to reduce a specific defect from 6% to under 1%. I like stretching goals, so I typically have my teams set one number at the 70-80% confidence level and then a stretch number which defines hitting it out of the park. Make sure you do this as a team; have everyone participate and vote. This increases people's involvement and commitment to the final targets.
5. Craft a theme.
After creating the priority, metric, and target, you're ready to develop a theme. This is your chance to get a little creative. Come up with a concept, phrase, or story that ties your metric to your purpose. Now's the time to leverage the people in your organization who are good with copy and marketing. The snappier the theme, the more memorable it will be.
One company I worked with wanted to focus on their core value: "sharpen the axe." They tracked the number of process improvements made over the quarter. The goal was finding ways of working smarter, not harder.
6. Create a scoreboard.
A scoreboard helps you visualize your goal. Use your metric and your theme to drive the design. You get points for creativity. For the example above, the team made a big poster of a tree and then made little wedges they would write improvements on to paste on the tree like it was being chopped at. It became a conversation piece for visitors and everyone in the company could readily see the progress being made.
7. Create a reward and plan a celebration.
Many teams create bronze, silver, and gold-level rewards for the company based on hitting different levels of achievement. Afterwards, they have a party or social event around the theme to tie it all together.
For the "sharpen the axe" theme above, the team set a goal of 100 improvements over the quarter and the reward was a company outing. Where did they go? You guessed it, axe throwing!
8. Establish a rhythm.
Make sure you're reviewing progress at least once a week. Add it to your meeting agenda and take five minutes to discuss progress. Many teams I coach work it into their daily standup. The axe throwing team added the wedges each morning and then announced the new count during the morning stand up.
Every company needs to work hard if they want to achieve their goals, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun as well. Creating themes brings a powerful human element to the workplace and makes it easier to stay focused and be successful.