Ah yes, the new year. That time when, regardless of past failures and disappointments, we hopefully make promises to ourselves and great plans for the next twelve months. We do this at home, and we also do it at work. As managers, we spend many hours planning our strategy for the department and what it should achieve during the year. But do we include our team members in setting goals for the year? Usually not.
That’s a great pity, because when it comes to implementing our great plans, all members of the team, all employees, all staff members, everyone must play a part. Oh sure, you are excited — after all, they’re your plans. But how enthusiastic is everyone else? Can you really expect them to share your enthusiasm and commitment if they had no opportunity to share the vision, no part in creating the strategy, no chance to add their ideas and insights?
How difficult would it be to include team members in setting goals for the year? Not very. All it takes is the will to do it and a few logistical arrangements. Here’s a suggested plan of action:
1. Let everyone know about the new process. If you are a department head or team leader, and if it is logistically feasible, do this in a group meeting. Otherwise, arrange a telephone conference. Either method is better than an e-mail broadcast, because you want to send a message right away that this is a “human” process and not just another layer of bureaucracy. This first communication could include a summary of the past year’s achievements and challenges, and how these affect plans for next year. Then offer a very broad statement of what you hope to achieve in the next twelve months, one that allows for lots of ideas and input on how this can be done.
2. Allow time for people to think about the subject and develop their ideas.
3. Set up a strategy session, preferably with everyone in the same room. This meeting should be facilitated in a way that allows people to voice their ideas and opinions but does not intimidate. Their ideas may be accepted, postponed or rejected, but never ridiculed. Everyone should be treated with respect and appreciated for their input. The World Cafe process is ideal for this part of the plan, and can bring out deep, clear and unexpected insights that can make your strategy come alive.
4. Using the information from the session, create a strategic plan as well as the tactical plans need to bring it to fruition. This process MUST be completed as quickly as possible, and no later than two weeks after the meeting, in order to capitalize on the team spirit created. Any delay will dilute the positive effects and create an impression that nothing has changed.
5. Provide everyone with a copy of the plan documents, with a reminder of their commitments to follow through (this commitment will be part of the World Cafe process).
6. Set up a mechanism for ongoing group monitoring, allowing for necessary course corrections as appropriate throughout the year, based on what is actually happening. This should culminate with a year-end look back at the plans and implementations, which automatically sets the stage for next year’s goal setting process.
Include team members in setting goals for the year, communicate with them appropriately and honestly about the goals at all stages, and prepare to be amazed at the positive results that can be achieved.