Goal alignment – steps to the right culture

Many people who have to suffer me on a daily basis (mostly at work) hear me harping on about “goal alignment”. I’m going to describe in this entry why I think goal alignment is very important, and how it influences the culture of an organisation.
Goal alignment is the strategic setting of reward and recognition processes to facilitate the community wide achievement of an objective.
This consists of a number of parts, the first being strategic. This is not a tactical process, this is a strategic process that requires a top down approach where appropriate objectives are communicated and at each level the goal alignment is structured to facilitate the objective at that particular level. Each level should be supporting the levels above and there should be a direct link of objectives between layers and it should be clear how the successful achievements lead toward the high level goals.
Reward and recognition processes are a key part of goal alignment. It involves understanding the stakeholders at each level and what motivates them. For many people this might be a KPI and linked to salary, to others this might be the opportunity to play with new technology. The reward and recognition process must be carefully selected so as not to demotivate others, but still provide the necessary guidance towards objectives.
Finally, the community is the group involved in the objective. This might be an entire organisation, a department or most importantly a project. However, many lower level groupings (project) are directly affected by higher level layers (department or company).
With the preamble out of the way, the question is “so what?”. I believe that the major cause of breakdowns of commitment and success in organisations is a lack of goal alignment. If the developers don’t have their goals aligned with the business outcomes that are expected from their project, then there is a very limited chance of success. Of course, some people might get lucky, and the reward for their project can be “have the time and resources to do good work”. It’s not all about money, it’s what motivates people and teams, and what is required at each level.
For example, I’ve seen reward and recognition schemes go horribly wrong because the goals aren’t aligned properly. Notable candidates are;
1. Rewarding people for doing extra hours. This leads to people slacking off during the day, just to work late at night and pad timesheets.
2. Rewarding people for completing their work. This leads to lack of project success as everybody only cares about finishing their stuff, regardless of the project.
Reward people for the behaviour you want. Align these with the strategic goals. Be careful you’re not rewarding people for the wrong thing and sending the wrong message to everybody else. You will get the behaviour you deserve, which may not be the behaviour you want.


9 thoughts on “Goal alignment – steps to the right culture

  1. I feel the ‘rewards and recognition’ aspect needs further work by the community. The following offering to an XP discussion group interested me.
    The discussion topic suggests that “traditional [appraisal] methods do not support the XP value system”. A statement I would tend to agree with.
    Given that people have a wide variety of motivations, I wonder. How personalised to the individual does the rewards and recognition process need to be in order to support effective goal alignment? For example, is it fair to assume that all the software developers on a project have similar motivations?

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with the goal alignment. I have seen team members who started a project with great vigor start slacking off as the project starts dragging. It should be continous process through project life-time rather than a one time process at the project startup.

  3. In addition to goal alignment, I’m thinking at the moment that alignment of values is equally important. Setting goals without defining values might achieve what you want, but not necessarily in the manner you would like to achieve it. Values should help to make the right decisions while moving toward your goal(s).

  4. help me by ansering the following question :”It is only people who have objectives and not organisations “. Discuss

  5. People set objectives. The culture of an organisation is defined by the people within, and the context of the work that is performed by the organisation.
    So, you’re 100% correct.

  6. help me to answer the question, “It is only people who objectives not organisations.Discuss.

  7. help me to answer the question ‘managers can only delegate authority and responsibility, but not accountability.Discuss.

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