Opinion

How to create accountability and urgency to reach your company’s objectives

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by Stephen Hawley Martin


Holding all employees responsible for accomplishing annual objectives may be more effective than the typical hierarchical system. Under hierarchy, responsibility for accomplishing objectives set forth at the beginning of each year or quarter usually rests with executive officers who directly report to the chief operating officer, or the CEO.

These top reports have the job of lighting a fire under those who report to them, who in turn light a fire under those who report to them, and so on down the line. But what happens when the hierarchy has been eliminated and the company operates through interlocking, empowered teams? How can management create urgency and be sure progress is being made?

One tool many enterprises use is the “objectives worksheet,” a simple tracking mechanism that allows each team to monitor and respond to key business metrics. Its purpose is to provide clear focus for a team and to establish accountability for the contributions a team is expected to make. It also can create a sense of urgency.

The primary team in an organization, which is chaired by the top executive, should design the objectives worksheet so the format is consistent throughout the organization.

This team also should create a worksheet containing global objectives to measure performance of the organization overall. All teams’ objectives should support these high-level objectives.

The primary team should review progress toward global objectives at regular intervals, and the rest of the organization should be kept abreast of progress made or the lack of it. Not only will this keep everyone in the company informed, it will create urgency to meet any unmet goals, and it will create a sense of esprit d’corps when objectives are being met or exceeded.

Once the global worksheet is ready, teams throughout the business need to develop worksheets defining specifically how they will support the organization’s goals. The metrics used should reflect the team’s area of responsibility. Ideally, each team should have at least one objective for each key area that’s been targeted for improvement.

Teams need to identify who owns responsibility for tracking the progress made toward a particular objective and for keeping others focused on it.

A team’s objectives worksheet should be reviewed at every meeting as a standing agenda item. The team should identify what’s working and develop corrective action plans when performance is below target.

Typically, each team will send its worksheet and corrective action plans to the primary team monthly for review. Many organizations go a step farther by replacing this with monthly or quarterly presentations made to the primary team by team leaders. Responsibility for these presentations is often rotated among team members, creating additional urgency to generate good results to report.

A worksheet or a presentation clearly demonstrating how a team is contributing to the business can make a very powerful statement and be highly motivating to the team that presents it. Such a report can also motivate other teams.

Stephen Hawley Martin is a former principal of The Martin Agency in Richmond and author of more than a half dozen books including his newest, Lead Enterprise Leader: How to Get Things Done Without Doing It All Yourself.

He is editor and publisher of The Oaklea Press, a book publishing business dedicated primarily to helping business executives increase productivity. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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