In any organization, everyone is ultimately working together to realize a vision. We can often lose sight of this fact when we get stuck in the day-to-day. Instead of working seamlessly together, we can often create friction as we bump against each other. We might not instantly understand how our work and the work of others are contributing together to a unified picture.
But if we pull back for a moment and reflect on how our work serves others in the broader context of the organization's vision, then we can begin to realize the importance of inviting others into our personal goal-setting processes. By doing so, we help others not only understand how our work contributes to a vision but also see their place within it.
The Open Organization includes an entire chapter on making inclusive decisions, and it outlines the benefits of doing so. Goal setting is just another form of decision making, one that involves determining where you intend to focus your energy to achieve anticipated results over a defined period of time. Whether you're an individual contributor, a manager of a team, or a director of multiple teams, the benefits of setting goals transparently and collaboratively are equally applicable.
Using the aforementioned chapter from The Open Organization as a guide, I'll explore the benefits of collaborative goal-setting, then outline some steps for taking transparent and collaborative action. If you're an individual contributor, then you should begin identifying actions you can take to be more transparent and collaborative in your goal setting. If you're a manager of a team (or director of multiple teams), use the information presented here to develop your teams' transparent and collaborative goal setting practices by helping them understand the tangible benefits of being open.
Why set goals in the open?
The Open Organization notes that inclusive decision making "gives you a moment to look at the bigger picture and how your role fits into the overall business plan. It allows you to step back and look at the forest, not just the tree in front of you."
In today's always-on, constantly connected world, this opportunity for thinking is a gift—a luxury, really, because it affords us a moment to pause and understand how our work contributes to a greater sense of purpose beyond ourselves, our team, or our department.
With that bigger picture more firmly in our minds, we can look around and see how other individuals, teams, or departments can help us achieve our goals, or how they will be impacted by the goals we decide to set.
It builds networks
As The Open Organization puts it, "The more transparent you make the decision-making process, the more effectively you can turn those decisions into real action that everyone will engage in." By thinking in this way, we've just created for ourselves a massive opportunity to turn our goal setting into a networking and relationship building exercise, which benefits both us and the organization. Sharing our goals is the perfect excuse to bolster existing working relationships and reach out into the organization to create new ones. We'll not only be strengthening our corporate networks and creating potential future opportunities for ourselves, but also be increasing our understanding of others' roles and the ways they also connect to the company's vision—creating alignment for us and our team. It may even make the people we engage pause for a moment to reflect on the bigger picture, so this gift we've given ourselves by taking a moment to reflect is now paid forward to others.
It leads to better results
When it comes to open goal setting, The Open Organization says that, "Opening up leads to better decisions, better engagement, better execution, and ultimately better results." We can't know everything. Acknowledging that fact is a great strength, not a weakness, because it fosters your learning mindset, opening you up to other perspectives and ideas. It's called being resourceful, and it's the first step towards being able to influence those around you to help your cause. Eric Raymond's summation of Linus' Law (in his essay and book The Cathedral and the Bazaar) applies equally well to software development and goal setting: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." Inviting others into the process enables us to find the limitations and gaps in our thinking more quickly.
It strengthens culture
By including others in our goal setting, we not only gain their perspectives (leading to a better outcome) but also model the behaviors of an open culture for them to experience. This modeling of behavior is important. As The Open Organization says, "Collaboration builds understanding, trust, and buy-in." But I believe that's not the entire story; how we behave when we collaborate is what really helps us achieve success and buy-in. People see what we are doing (collaborating) but they experience how we are doing it (transparently). Our behavior becomes our message.
It creates new opportunities
Transparent collaboration around setting goals has great benefits to the organization, no doubt, but it can also be the differentiator that sets us apart in the organization and opens up new opportunities for us.
We're more likely to achieve our goals when we open them up, because others understand how they can support us in achieving them. But we're also establishing a verifiable track record of being able to set goals and achieve them, while also demonstrating that we are the type of person that can work with others to achieve the company's vision.
If culture eats strategy for breakfast, then execution is setting the table and cleaning up afterwards. Fortunately, taking action to set goals transparently and collaboratively can be very simple. As The Open Organization puts it, "The good news about inclusive decision making is that it's easy to start. You can simply ask a few others for their thoughts on a decision you are making."
In my next article, I'll outline a step-by-step process for opening up your professional goal-setting practices.
Read the step-by-step guide
Download the Open Organization Leaders Manual
The nature of work is changing. So the way we lead must change with it.