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Setting team goals

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"Individuals need objectives to produce their best performance. Teams need objectives too."

We’re used to hearing that individuals achieve more when they’re clear about what they want. It is true for teams too, but a bit more difficult to get your head around. Teams are made up of individuals, right? So a team’s objectives must be the sum of the individual objectives? Not exactly..... a great team is more than the sum of its parts.

Individual performance: 10/10

Imagine an airport where you have check-in, passport control and security. The customer-friendly check-in team is really proud of how fast it gets through those queues of passengers, keeping people happy and tantrums to a minimum. They have even invested in online check-in to speed people through.

Passport control has honed its expertise, and has just introduced state-of the-art visual identification software so they don’t hold people up on their way through to duty-free.

And security have sacrificed everything else to get the latest technology so passengers can be re-assured their flights will be safe. It takes the same time as before, but they can see the fine detail of everything you’re carrying onto the plane.

Team performance: 7/10

The check-in manager, passport control manager and the security head are each doing a grand job running their areas, keeping up with the latest technology. But when they meet as a management team one Tuesday afternoon (let’s say they’re so good that they are a self-managed team) they find the airport manager in their meeting-room with a frown on her face.

This self-managed team report to her, and she has noticed an increasing number of complaints she is getting from passengers. About the queues waiting for security checks, which is undoing all the smooth friendly efficiency of the check-in and passport process.

Each of the managers is doing a grand job in their own area, so what’s going wrong?

The answer is that the combination of online check-in and passport control software have speeded things up so much that people are now having to queue for security clearance. Each individual team has improved, but the overall result is more complaints because if it’s one thing passengers bound for duty-free hate, it’s a queue.

Solution: team objectives

The self-managed team agreed to sit down and review what they are collectively trying to achieve. Over and above, or as well as, individual excellence.

Which may be no complaints; which may hinge on no queues.

Which may mean more security machines, or fewer check-in staff, or a mixture of both. Difficult decisions, because the team may have to make a decision that has a negative impact on an individual team member.

Which is why it is crucial to have regular discussions and reach explicit agreement about the team’s objectives.

Then the team can get 10/10 too.

Is the goal-setting process the same for a team?

The process for setting objectives and breaking this down into Key Result Areas and Tasks is exactly the same for teams as it is for individuals. The only difference is that you work together to agree your goals rather than simply setting them on your own before agreeing them with the person you report to. This does, of course, make it more complex in practice, but you’ll find all the help you need on the whole goal setting process here, and making decisions in teams here


Exercise - Clarifying your objectives

Time: 1 hour

The aim of this session is to help you / your team develop your objectives and set ambitious targets - so you, and others, know exactly what you're aiming for!

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