Whether in personal life or in the workplace, it’s generally accepted that setting goals is an important step on the road to achieving success. The “management by objectives” approach was introduced by Peter Drucker in 1954, and advocated managers and employees agreeing a set of goals and working on achieving them throughout the year.
Many organisations have since adopted the SMART framework for formulating and managing their goals. SMART is an acronym used to denote goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound.
Specific refers to the need for a goal to be clear and unambiguous. Measurable is the need to define metrics to judge achievement of the goal. Attainable refers to the ability of the individual to achieve the goal, considering both skill base and environmental factors. And finally, Time-bound specifies the timeframe for achieving the desired outcome.
SMART goals are usually set up as part of the performance review cycle at the start of a year, linked to incentives or performance ratings, and often not shared with others. The problem is that this approach can have the opposite effect to that intended, lowering performance by encouraging individuals to set goals that are too easily achievable, creating goals in silos, where even other team members may not be aware of targets, and establishing goals which can become outdated and are not adjusted to changing circumstances. As a result, individual employees may meet their goals and still not have the required impact on organisational success or under-achieve when goals become unattainable during the year.
To drive forward the vision, mission, and objectives of an organisation, it is critical to align goals to the business strategy, to take into consideration inter-dependencies, and to adjust the goals if circumstances change.
The FAST framework is an alternative that mitigates these issues. FAST is an acronym for Frequently discussed, Ambitious, Specific, and Transparent. Used by major companies such as Google and Intel, FAST offers a more flexible approach.
In this framework, rather than the “once a year” approach, working on goals becomes a natural part of everyday work with frequent discussions on progress, ongoing relevance, and the need for any adjustments. Goals are set to be challenging, acknowledging that individuals may need to develop new skills to be able to deliver. This approach encourages motivation and engagement, as well as a real sense of achievement when the goals are met. Specific refers not only to clarity of the goal, but also to the establishment of clear metrics to measure success, as well as the definition of timeframes and deadlines as needed. And finally, goals in the FAST framework should be transparent right across the organisation, starting with the cascading of goals from the top.
Taking this approach means that individual goals align with team, departmental and organisational goals, inter-dependencies are identified upfront, and the assessment of the impact of any changes can be more holistic. Of course, it still enables personal goals related to individual performance to be kept private where necessary.
For goals to be able to drive the execution of organisational strategy, managers need to take a strategic approach that aligns to the more dynamic workplace we find ourselves in today. Maybe it’s time for your goals to become FAST!
HRBluSky recognises the importance of goal setting to driving business success and supports you in setting up and managing performance goals in your organisation.