Learning how to build goals from the top down ensures that everyone’s work is headed in the same direction.
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 the individual. Ensure everyone’s work is headed in the same direction and people know how they fit in—how their work contributes to the broader goals we’re trying to achieve. The way you do this is you work from the vision down to subcomponents, then down to subcomponents 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 get to at the top level. Why? Well, you want to make sure that you hit that goal. By over-allocating that goal across the organization, you’re going to increase the chances that you hit the big goal.
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%, by $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 over-allocating that goal from top down to individual helped us achieve that goal. Now, when you do this, if you’re going to go with an over-allocating approach to setting these goals from the big goal down to individuals, be careful about over-planning 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 6:00 a.m.” The lieutenants would then go to the organization and say, “I want everybody at formation at 5:30 a.m.” The platoon sergeants then went to the teams and said, “I want everybody in formation at 5:00 a.m.” The squad leaders then said, “I want everybody in formation at 4:30 a.m.” The next thing you know, you’ve got this Corp private standing out there in a parking lot at 4:00 a.m., waiting for a formation that happens two hours from now. Bad things can happen when you over-allocate a goal down to the individual level.
So balance it out. Look at the high-level goal, break it down into subcomponents, and 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 setting goals? How about taking an entire course on it? Go directly to the course and start learning how to set better goals. The entire course is available at LinkedIn Learning. Enjoy!
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