Organizational Change And How Goal Setting Can Help

By Vicki Heath

Many change programs seem to meander along with no clear purpose or direction. These are the programs that usually fail. In the end, vast resources are consumed and people are left burned out and confused. Your desire to move your organization towards a new way of working will remain just a wish unless you set specific objectives and create a plan for achieving those objectives.

The key to setting your program off on the right track is to work with your key stakeholders to flesh out unambiguous and measurable objectives. Do this before you do anything else!

Why Set Goals?

How does goal setting help your program succeed? To begin with, the two-way dialogue involved in setting goals helps to get all stakeholders on the same page, uncovering hidden assumptions and misunderstandings.

Secondly, inviting and encouraging stakeholders to participate in decision-making about group objectives gives them a genuine stake in the result. The act of participation in joint decision-making builds relationships based on trust and mutual respect. These alliances you form at the outset of the program will help you ride through some of the most seemingly impenetrable obstacles.

Communicating and agreeing the objective for a set of activities also puts it into a larger context. Giving stakeholders this sense of meaning and purpose will get them motivated to walk that extra mile for you when times get tough.

Setting goals will also make your planning easier. Challenging tasks can appear overwhelming, encouraging people to give up at the seeming enormity of the job at hand. By setting an overarching objective that is measurable, the seemingly impossible task can be broken up into manageable chunks.

Lastly, it is only through setting a measurable goal that you, your program sponsors and your team will ever know that your program was a success. The goal, in effect, defines the success criteria for the project in a way that everyone can understand.

Tips for Goal Setting

Our business has seen many examples of ineffective goals that only serve to confuse people and hamper the change program. Here are some basic tips for making sure that your program goals are working for you and not against you.


* Are your goals linked to the mission, vision and strategic direction of your organization or organizational unit? Or are they peripheral to the organization, ready to be jettisoned when resources get tight or a new fad comes along?

* Are they SMART goals? That is, are they stated so that they are:










ime framed

* For complex change initiatives, are your goals balanced? Do you have goals in each of the appropriate dimensions of your change program?

* Financial

* Customer

* Process

* Employee

* Information Systems

* Supplier

* Are your goals broken down into manageable chunks? Doing so allows you and your team to achieve some quick wins that will further spur motivation. Are your goals devolved to the various units or levels within your organization (division, department, team)? Have you engaged employees in devolving these goals and in developing detailed strategies for achieving them?

* Have you communicated the goals often and using a variety of methods to all relevant levels within your organization? Does your Stakeholder Communication Plan include communication of goals and objectives?

* Have you set a baseline from which to compare future performance? A baseline is usually todays performance result or the result from the previous reporting period. Or will your sponsors and stakeholders be left wondering, and arguing, whether the change effort was worth it?

Setting measurable and relevant goals that all major stakeholders can agree to is the cornerstone of a successful change program. By engaging the important players in the goal setting process and through following the tips above, you will be assured that your program is off to a great start. I wish you well on your journey.

2006 Business Performance Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Vicki Heath is the Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd, a company providing practical online information and resources in a range of business areas. Her companys guides, tools and templates assist organizations engage and develop people, manage organizational change and improve project delivery. Visit her at



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