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The Power and Danger of Overallocating Goals

Goal Line Marker in Snow

Goal setting can be tricky business. By overallocating goals from top to bottom, you can improve the odds of hitting your top level goal; but be careful you don’t put too much pressure on your team members.

Goals shouldn’t just tie from your strategy down to the individual goals. When you add your goals up, they also need to align from corporate goals down to individual goals.

Ensure everyone’s work is headed in the same direction and people know how they fit in and how their work contributes to the broader goals you’re trying to achieve. The way you do this is you work from the company vision down to divisions, then down to teams below that, all the way down to individual goals.

Goals should cascade from the highest levels down, and when you add them all up, hopefully it’s more than you’re trying to achieve at the top level.

Why?

Well, you want to make sure that you hit your big corporate or division goal. By overallocating that goal across the organization, you’re going to increase the chances that you hit the big goal.

Here’s what overallocating a goal looks like:

I worked for an operating division at one point and we had a goal of $200 million of revenue. There were five regions in the organization. Each region was given a goal of $42 million. Now, that’s $210 million. Within those regions, each branch was given a goal, and when you totaled up all the branches, it came to $215 million worth of goals. We then looked at the individual sales reps, and every sales rep was given a goal. When we totaled up all the sales rep goals, it was $220 million. Adding up those individual goals exceeded the division goal by 10% which was $20 million. The reason we did this was to ensure that we hit that top-level $200 million goal.

Over the course of the year, obviously, some sales reps exceeded their goals, some met their goals, and some fell short. Working from the top down, ensured the primary goal was focused on. Everyone was focused on driving sales, and by overallocating that goal from top down to individual helped us achieve that goal.

When you do this, if you’re going to go with an overallocating approach to setting these goals from the big goal down to individuals, be careful about overplaying that hand because you may make it such that that goal is not achievable. One time I’ve seen this dynamic is when I was in the army and we had to be at formation at a certain time. Our company commander would say, “I want everybody at formation at 6AM.” The lieutenants would then go to the organization and say, “I want everybody at formation at 5:30 AM.” The platoon sergeants then went to the teams and said, “I want everybody in formation at 5:00 AM.” The squad leaders then said, “I want everybody in formation at 4:30 AM.” The next thing you know, you’ve got this poor private standing out there in a parking lot at 4:00 AM waiting for a formation that happens two hours from now.

Bad things can happen when you overallocate a goal down to the individual level so balance it out. Look at the high-level goal. Break it down into sub-components. Look at the individual goals that are going to add up to that broader goal. Make sure the goals you set at the individual level are still achievable and they’re directly tied to the broader goal you’re trying to achieve. By doing so, people know how they contribute, how they fit in, and you’re going to make sure that you hit those top-level goals if everybody hits their individual goals.

Want to learn more about this topic? How about taking an entire course on it? Check out the video below to learn more about Setting Team and Employee Goals. You can also go directly to the course and start learning how to set goals more effectively. The entire course is available at lynda.com. Enjoy!

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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