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December 24, 2013

How to effectively set goals for your team

By shutterstock_78476620

Another year end is upon us. Whether you and your company had a successful year, or one not so filled with success, you’re looking into the future to figure out how you can either re-create successes or avoid making the same mistakes. One way to do that is to set attainable goals for your team.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Sure, you can lay down on paper everything you want to accomplish. That’s fine, but there’s always the risk of aiming too high or shooting too low. The key here is balance. Without a solid balance between reaching for the stars and what’s actually attainable, you can easily set your team up for failure.

How can you set goals for the next year that can assure you success? It all starts at the top.

Start with the company’s goals

Although we’re looking at team goals, we still cannot ignore the overall goals of the company. If you ignore the company’s goals, the ones you set for your team could either conflict or overlap. Avoid those traps by being efficient. Look at the overall goals of the company and decide if your proposed team goals fall in line them and fill a specific need.

Let’s say, for example, the number one goal of the company is to re-discover its target audience so it can better focus sales and marketing, and your team happens to be the IT department. What do you do? First and foremost, you examine the overriding company goal for the year and define the routes of success your team can take to help achieve that goal.

Say what?

Let’s examine.

You know the main goal of the company. You are the IT department. How can your team help achieve the company goal? Let’s ask some questions:

  • Does your team control the network and what users can access?
  • Do other teams use social networking as a means of accessing clients?
  • Does your company have the necessary tools to make client management easy?

These questions are pretty obvious — as well as how they relate to the goal. But how do you use those questions to help you create team goals for the upcoming year? First, answer the questions. Say, for example, your company does not have the necessary tools to make client management easy.

Another question comes to mind: Does your team have the resources to make that happen? If the answer is yes, you can already set a solid goal for the next year: Roll out a customer resource management (CRM) system for the company. That is a solid, achievable goal for an IT department that doesn’t overreach or over-extend.

The crucial elements are ensuring your team goals gel with the company goals and making sure they are achievable. Along these same lines, you’ll need to use caution when amassing those goals. Don’t pile on too many with the assumption they’ll roll over into the next year. They won’t. The trajectory of the company could change for the next year and all those leftover goals are out the window. Keep it simple, keep it achievable. If, by years end, you’ve reached all of planned goals, call it a win and move onto the next year.

Divide larger goals into smaller goals

Another helpful tool is dividing those goals within your team. Let’s stick with the roll out of the CRM. Instead of laying out that single, all-encompassing task, break it into sub-goals:

  • Choosing the right CRM
  • Setting up the hardware (if needed)
  • Installing the operating system
  • Setting up the database
  • Installing the CRM software
  • Adding data to the CRM
  • Training users for the CRM

Assign these sub-goals to sub-teams and that one major goal becomes much easier to reach (as well as easier to track and manage).

Goals are an incredible tool for motivation and organization. They can also be a means to a soul-crushing end. Your best bet is to use care when developing a list of what you want your team to achieve by the end of year. Work that magic list properly and your year end report will reflect an efficient and productive team.

About the Author

is an award winning writer of technical content and fiction. He has been covering Linux and open source since the late '90s and just about every conceivable topic since. His fiction breaks ground in the post apocalyptic genre as well as horror, thriller, and science fiction. For more information on Jack, check out his site, Get Jack'd at