By Marcus Nicolls, Senior Partner at Partners In Leadership; author and expert in change management and accountability.

Creating a vision board or writing down a list of three to five things that you want to have or complete by the end of the year helps to set your intention and bring clarity and focus to what matters most.

This practice is vital in business, too, especially as companies are challenged to navigate an ever-changing business, political, and cultural landscape. However, you might be alarmed to discover that 85% of survey participants in our Workplace Accountability Study indicated they weren't even sure what their organizations were trying to achieve. This lack of clarity can wreak havoc on business results.

Successful leaders know the importance of identifying the top three Key Results they want their team or company to achieve by the end of the year. Doing so brings alignment within the organization. When everyone is clear about where the organization is headed and what success looks like, they pull together to achieve those results faster.

Of course, the tricky part about identifying Key Results in the beginning of the year is that things change, from markets and technological advancements to new competition and regulations. Here's how to balance setting your intention for the year with the flexibility necessary to adapt to the changes that are sure to come.

Change Brings Opportunity

In industries that value predictability above all, changing your goals isn't always rewarded. Rather than being celebrated as visionary and agile, changing targets midstream may instead draw doubts about your vision and expertise. These attitudes lead to a change-averse environment, where dated Key Results remain in place despite changes that may have rendered them obsolete.

A company that refuses to acknowledge and adapt to change is like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Changes in the marketplace and competitive landscape will occur and must be addressed. If a competitor beats you to market, for example, your first-mover advantage is erased, and your entire strategy may need to be reformulated. How you react in the face of such unforeseen obstacles can speak volumes about your chances of long-term success.

Consider, for example, how Papa John's reacted to the slump in casual dining following the recession in 2008.

As competitors watched their stocks tumble, some cited all the dynamics of the economic downturn as an excuse for their decline in revenue. In contrast, Papa John's reacted to these same market conditions in a more accountable and productive way by asking "What else can we do?" to adapt and continue to delight customers in the changing reality of the marketplace.

Papa John's willingness to not just ride out the storm but make adjustments real-time resulted in its stock price actually rising during the recession that battered competitors.

A New Year Needs New Key Results

That being said, not all organizational goals are created equal. While tributary targets should adjust to meet the ebb and flow of tactical needs, recalibrate your company's annual Key Results with caution lest you lead employees down the path of ever-shifting priorities and the tendency to fall into a "wait and see" mentality.

Therefore, it's essential to establish meaningful, measurable, and memorable Key Results leading into Q1 to guide your employees throughout the year to come.

Meaningful: Key Results must have meaning to every member of the company, from entry-level employees to the c-suite. Every employee should be able to connect the way they think and act on a daily basis to each of the Key Results.

Measurable: Progress towards these goals can be quantified and consistently communicated so that everyone, at every level in the organization, is able to understand where they stand in relation to achieving those results.

Memorable: Can we talk about our Key Results in a conversational way? Are they sticky and repeatable? Do they create conversation? Our Key Results are not our mission, but rather a way to measure how well we're achieving our mission! If you want to create a company culture where people take accountability to think and act in the manner necessary to achieve Key Results, then it begins with clearly defined results.

Key Results define what winning the game looks like for us this year, and they serve as a yardstick against which every employee can measure their performance. Reevaluate and reset your Key Results every year, making sure you stay agile enough to embrace change and adjust accordingly.

Published on: Jan 18, 2018
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