The Power of Objectives

The topics in this post are things I learned at an Intelligently class. I recommend checking out their list of classes.

I got the chance to hear Dave Balter speak about OGSM, an organizational framework made popular by Proctor & Gamble. Much of it was stuff right out of an introductory business course. "Set a big vision" and "have clear objectives" are obvious ones, but Balter positioned those lessons in a few ways that hit home for me. I thought I'd share a couple.

We Have a Goal, But What Does it Look Like?

Every blog on entrepreneurship says that startups should set a transformative vision. Everything has to "change the face" of something, which is fine. But how do those startups know when they've achieved that?

At HubSpot, our goal is to transform marketing, but what does that look like? One measurement we have is to "make marketers (and their materials) loved by their audiences." But even that isn't very easy to quantify. Balter recommends setting goals that are quantifiable and time-sensitive. E.g. HubSpot could set a goal of collecting 100 million organic leads for our customers by 2015.

By setting clear top-level goals, benchmark goals are easier to define and can be qualitative, as long as they work toward fulfilling the big goal.

How Do Our Daily Activities Fulfill the Company's Vision?

So yes, goals are great and you should use them everywhere! A department can set a goal that helps fulfill the company's main goal. An employee should set a goal that works toward her department's goal.

An unfocused team can produce wasted effort. We see this when smart, well-intentioned people start initiatives to fix things that aren't broken or win battles the company won't benefit from. Cascading goals focus each unit in an organization. True clarity means that every employee, at any time, should be able to ask herself, "Is what I'm doing going to help us reach 100 million organic leads by 2015?" and get a clear answer.

So is OGSM the Best Thing Ever?

Meh. OGSM is a top-down approach to setting goals, which seems to be great for aligning many people under a single, vague mission. That might not work well for companies that want to set their goals from the bottom-up, aka from employees at the front lines who interact with customers every day. Executives at companies that dictate priorities need to be very careful that those goals are aligned with the market's expectation.

When it comes to goal setting, a balanced approach is probably a terrible idea. Instead, a cyclical approach to goals might work best, whether it's top-down or bottom-up. Regardless definitely have a goal.

If you want to learn more about OGSM, check out this blog post.