Annual Goals Are Sexy

Once upon a time, I worked with my staff to set goals. We met at the end of each year to set goals for the following year – and at the end of each quarter to discuss progress on their annual goals and other performance stuff. Some called this overkill. I called it accountability.

The systems guy had set a goal to automate the vacation accrual calculator so the team would no longer have to track it manually. It was really ambitious considering the challenges of our HRIS and his limited programming knowledge. A lot of junk was going to have to be cleaned up before the goal could be reached. However, I was excited to automate that process and proud the systems guy wanted to take it on without any hints or urgings from me. It showed he was able to identify challenges, concerned for the team and committed to advancing our department effectiveness and efficiency — all at the same time. These are great things!

I became worried when the systems guy announced the programming for the calculator was finished when we met at the end of Q1. He said all he needed was approval to launch it and rollout training on how it worked to the rest of the team … But I knew there were at least 3 other things that needed to be cleaned up in the system first — and those things would take at least 3-5 months to complete. It just wasn’t possible that he was already done.

When I talked more with the systems guy, it quickly became apparent he hadn’t done the other things to get the system cleaned and ready for the calculator. When I asked the systems guy why he’d done the things out of order, he said “The cleanup stuff is so boring and tedious. It’s waited this long; it can wait a few more months. It might make the calculator slightly inaccurate at first but, after awhile, it will be perfect and everyone will love it!”

The conversation didn’t go too well after that. It ultimately ended with the systems guy going back to do the cleanup before launching or rolling out anything … But it was a great lesson for me. Here’s what I learned:

  • Annual goals take a year. It should go without saying but it’s takes a year to do something in a year. When setting goals for the year, it should take most or all of the year to achieve it. Finishing early is great — but finishing too early means usually means the goal was too simple or that the wrong type of goal was set.
  • Annual goals have goals within the goal. Earlier this month, Chris Fields pointed out in his post that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. The same is true of annual goals. They have to be broken down and dissected into smaller pieces to be worked on and worked a little at a time. That is also the reason and the point of meeting about annual goals throughout the year — to both analyze the pieces and remind everyone of the big picture.
  • Annual goals are sexy. Goals within goals are not. The research and prep work it takes to plan and reach our goals is rarely fun or exciting stuff. We all wish we could make magic and miracles happen every day so we can be the favorite and the hero! The reality is it takes a lot of grunt work to make our annual goals something that comes to fruition.


Oh, so you want to know how the story ended?

About halfway through Q3, the systems guy finished all the cleanup projects. We launched his calculator at the beginning of Q4. It worked perfectly from Day 1. And we all lived happily ever after … The End.


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