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Don't set objectives, set requirements

The radically new approach to performance management.

November
21, 2020

5 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

After spending the past 20 years in Human Resources, as far as I can remember, annual goal setting practice has been a dreaded exercise for most. Managers, employees and even HR professionals find the process cumbersome. It's bureaucratic, biased, and often poorly executed. However, it is still one of the most widely used tools for measuring individual performance and distributing bonuses to organizations worldwide.

I'm not saying that goal setting isn't an important element of measuring performance, but I advocate that the way companies do it is out of date and requires a new approach. In most cases, practicality is lost when executives faced with challenges that were unimaginable at the time these practices were designed often rush to tick an annual exercise. In the world of global pandemics, volatile economic markets and the demands on remote working, executives need new tools to find new ways of creating value and high-performing cultures. SMART goals just aren't attractive enough.

Fortunately, in recent years there has been a growing trend in business to radicalize the workplace to make it more relevant to our reality today. For this reason, I was looking for alternative ways to increase performance and engagement while making the process more holistic for everyone involved.

I came across the list of 8 trends created by Corporate Rebels, an organization that analyzed over 150 pioneers to identify the key ingredients that create the best work environment in today's age. The first point focuses on creating meaning and purpose, "because meaning and purpose gives people the energy, passion, and motivation to get out of bed in the morning." And that's what most current goal setting frameworks lack – the ability to take action.

We can set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART), but we forget that the secret of high performance lies in the motivation to actually do so! This sense is confirmed by Dan Pink in his book Drive: "Job satisfaction comes from a deeply human need to direct our own lives, learn and create new things, and make it better for us and our world." Unfortunately, these elements are not taken into account when considering most objective frameworks.

Related Topics: 5 Tips for Aligning Your Remote Team's Goals

We need to find a more inspirational path so that individuals can set their own goals, and most importantly, motivate them to achieve those goals – increasing performance from the inside rather than the top down. This requires organizations to change their philosophy and adopt more radical practices. Take, for example, Netflix's culture of reinvention, recorded in a book by CEO Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer, which describes: "There has never been a company like Netflix. Not just because of its unique position as a market leader in entertainment and technology or because of its growth as the world's leading streaming entertainment service with over 193 million members in 190 countries. Netflix is ​​a revolutionary company because of a counter-intuitive and radical management culture that defies tradition and expectation. "

What lessons can we learn from these pioneers and radical corporate rebels who have pinned high-performance cultures into the "new normal"?

1. Embrace an innovative business philosophy. Don't get stuck in corporate language, hierarchical bureaucratic systems that are detrimental to your own success. Look out for new practices that will empower everyone in your company, regardless of their level.

2. Focus less on setting goals and more on setting standards. Companies that say they care about their employees and yet treat them with suspicion and lack of trust fail to create successful creative and collaborative environments. Perceive flexibility and autonomy, or stop claiming it.

Related: Emotional Intelligence: Why You Need It and How To Recognize It At Work

3. Lead by example. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and at every level of your company structure. Embrace a culture of feedback that is not just top-down, but top-up as well. If you are unwilling to listen and learn, in the end you will have nothing more to teach.

The world as we know it is constantly evolving, and it is changing faster than ever before. Einstein famously said that if we expect different results, we cannot continue to do the same. Be radical in your quest to promote high performance practices in your company for the benefit of all concerned.

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