National Stress Awareness  Day is observed around the world and annually in the USA on the first Wednesday in November. It is a day to identify and reduce the stress factors in your life. There are a variety of sources of stress and work-life is right at the top of the list.

Stress in the Workplace

While there are several reasons for stress in the workplace, a recent study [1] revealed 42% of workers across every gender, department, and age group say having unclear goals is their top source of stress.

It’s time for “Clear Goals”.  Ask your doctor if “Clear Goals” are right for you.

In the absence of a systematic approach to creating ‘clear’ goals in your organization, projects and initiatives will tend to be:

  • Ad Hoc
  • On-the-fly
  • Plan ‘du jour’
  • Temporary

A common practice for setting goals is for the senior management team from the top down, to individually set goals for their respective functional areas.  Collectively, these goals form the ‘goals framework’ to run the organization.

Q: Where does the individual goal setting experience of the senior management team come from?

  • Places they have worked?
  • Were they high performance environments?
  • Formal training and experience using a tested methodology?
  • Management by intuition?
  • Some combination thereof?

Up and Down the Ladder

Using the goals developed by senior management based on their individual experience, managers down the ladder and across the organization will be tasked to develop supporting goals and initiatives of their own.

Likewise, these managers will draw from individual experience adding a second  ‘layer of interpretation’ when they set goals for their respective business areas.

This can require considerable thought to create goals that must;

  1. Focus the work in their own business area
  2. Fit into and support senior management’s ‘top level’ goals

Managers often hit ‘writer’s block’ when having to rely purely upon their individual experience to develop goals from scratch. And, most have no support system to help them. They do the best they can . . . intuitively.

Tug of War

The effect of this practice 2-3 levels down and across the enterprise can be chronic under-performance (and stress) due to unclear, poorly defined goals. People are not clear about:

  • Which direction to take?
  • What to focus on?

Important things don’t get done. Managers and employees are ‘out of synch’ and work against each other.  Valuable resources get wasted and morale is negatively impacted.

Furthermore, unsynchronized goals create ‘coordination problems’ across departments and among the various business functions of the organization.

The 42% Solution: Unified Business Goals

Practicing unified goals management is:

  1. The deliberate act of establishing clear, consistent, measurable goals according to a standard.
  2. Aligning the inter-operability of those goals among the various business specialties of the organization.
  3. Adjusting performance against goal measurement data (as it is collected) to improve productivity across the organization.

Great performance is the combination of individual skill and alignment (capability & balance) among skilled players. When alignment is attained, an organization gains the capability to manage and improve performance and create competitive advantage.

Are You Part of the 42%?

The Next Level – Unified Goals Library – contains model goals (OKRs) and measures (KPIs) used by top performers.  Each goal is standardized, and cross references related functional areas allowing managers and teams to collaborate and ‘unify’ their goal setting.

Contact me for a free 15-minute, no-obligation review to benchmark one of your key goals.

Charles Collins is CEO and Business Goals Architect at The Next Level Systems – a KPI Fire Partner.
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[1] Study: The Scoop on Stress –