Setting and cascading goals throughout the organization is vital to achieving company objectives.  Before you can expect employees to set goals, however, you'll need to set company goals.

When defining goals, you’ll want to make sure they meet the SMART criteria:

Specific: A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal.

Measurable: Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.

Attainable:  It should be a stretch to reach the goal, but not so much so that it’s out of reach. 

Realistic: What it takes to do to achieve the goal should be within the availability of resources, knowledge and time.

Timely: The goals should have a clearly defined time-frame including a target completion date.

Using the SMART criteria above, you should determine 3-5 goals that are tied to success measures of the company.  Oftentimes they are financial, business development, process development or customer satisfaction measures.  Once the Company Goals are determined, they should be communicated throughout the Company.  Using a company-wide venue (all company meeting, webcast, e-mail, etc.) to share the goals will ensure that all employees hear the same consistent message.  Once communicated, these goals become the framework that shape departmental and individual goals.  Hence the goals are cascaded as Company Goals to Departmental Goals to Individual Goals.  Setting goals at the department and employee level ensures that the day-to-day work is tied to the overall success of the company.  Connecting the goals to the Performance Management Process, whereby you can assess an employee’s attainment vs. their goals on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis will further enforce employee goals and get you further down the road towards attaining your company goals.

Check-in on the goals a few times throughout the year.  It doesn’t have to be a formal process… just a quick conversation to review the goals to make sure they still make sense.  As business and company conditions change, be sure to review the goals to make any adjustments accordingly.