because writing is clarifying

because writing is clarifying

Subbu Allamaraju’s Journal

Goal Crafting

Goal crafting is one of the most essential leadership activities. Organizational performance and team growth depend on well-crafted goals. Without a good goal-crafting exercise, your teams may focus on what is in front of their noses, solving what seems quickly solvable. Good goal crafting forces you not to ignore or postpone problems that require new ways of thinking, collaboration, or hardships. Without a good goal-crafting exercise, you can get stuck in the status quo or focus on what matters to you or your opinions, not what your stakeholders might need. Good goal crafting creates and drives your organizational strategy.

Here are my guidelines for setting objectives and key results. In this article, I use goal and objective interchangeably and consider OKR a practical goal-setting framework.

  1. Make your goal unarguable: An unarguable goal is one that most people agree with as it aligns with the organizational principles and direction. You’ve already lost your battle when others debate and argue about the validity of your goal. A well-crafted goal makes people at least say, “Of course, we should do that,” or ask, “Why are we not already doing that?” Unarguable objectives are typically not subjected to individual opinions. People may disagree on how to accomplish such an objective but not disagree with the objective itself.
  2. Manufacture consent: A leader’s job involves creating willingness for others to work with the organization to support their objectives. Such willingness manufactures consent, and people will refer to the goal when debating priorities or choices. A well-crafted goal makes others associate with you as they like to see the same outcomes because it benefits them. Here is a litmus test — you’ve done an excellent job crafting an objective when other teams speak of your goal as their goal, too. That’s an indication of inspiration and manufactured consent. When others begin to talk of your goal as theirs, you have inspired others to work with you toward that goal, and you have a much higher chance of realizing the goal. You will likely struggle to get their time and support when that does not happen. When my team asks me to escalate some issue to another team, I usually probe the goal first. Often, the root issue turns out to be a misaligned goal and not understanding the broader context.
  3. Let it make everyone uncomfortable: Well-crafted goals should make your team uncomfortable. They should put them out of their comfort zone, testing their assumptions and technical and human-relationship competencies. Such goals require a growth mindset and learning things that have not been done before. On your part, a well-crafted gaol requires fierce determination and unwillingness to give up. It should force your organization to continually seek options to get around obstacles. In the best case, your organization finds multiple options when no option seems possible.

What about key results? Consider two key attributes of key results.

  1. Meaningful: Your key results should be meaningful to your stakeholders. You should craft the key results in terms of what makes sense and is beneficial to your stakeholders. For example, replacing five ways of doing something with one way might benefit your team and be operationally beneficial to them. But why should your stakeholders care about your team’s operational efficiency? What’s in it for them? Perhaps replacing five ways with one way might help your stakeholders eliminate some pain and make them productive. Think of that pain, and craft your key result to focus on that pain. Consider what matters to your stakeholders and not yourself.
  2. Measurable: Ideally, your key result should be measurable. Typically, objectives are qualitative, and key results are quantitative. Measurable goals force you to be data-driven, reduce the fog of opinions, and improve clarity. What you measure should usually mean something to your stakeholders. In the example of five ways of doing something, your key result could be to improve efficiency for your stakeholders by some percentage or to reduce the time they take to perform some tasks. Measurable key results help you track progress. People will know when they get to the finish line.

What about things (i.e., tasks or activities) your team need to do to realize the objective and key results? Key results are outcomes your stakeholders want to see. Those are generally fixed. You might change or refine the activities when the going gets tough, but should generally keep the goals and key results the same. Track your activities separately from your objective and key results.

Be creative. Consider goal crafting as a leadership and team development exercise and not just a word-smithing exercise to represent what you want your organization to work on. Remember that goal crafting creates and enables your strategy.

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