Writing Reviews: Goals

It’s coming up on that time of year – have you written your performance review yet? I’m trying to help out a bit by offering suggestions on how to write your performance review.

Most companies will give you goals and that is what I’ll look at in this post.

Goals usually constitute a good percentage of the overall performance rating and hence, your merit and bonus payouts. So paying attention to goals is a very important piece of the puzzle.

Let’s look at a range of what companies will provide for goals and some suggestions as to what you can do with this information.

Goals: “what are those? Oh, those things on the review form.”

If this is your company and goals are a significant part of your evaluation, you have to work this to get some structure around how you will be evaluated – or you will be evaluated based on anything and everything, an exceptionally dangerous situation.

And let’s face it: managers and companies are usually pretty lousy and constructing goals. Why will have to wait for another post, but suffice to say that the goals most managers and companies write are not worth the paper they are written on.

If your company is in this category, you should start to build out your own goals using your job description as the starting point and get it to the point of sharing your goals with your manager. My bet is no one else will and it will signal to your manager that you are serious about the performance review.

Goals: the words are written, but there is nothing measurable there.

“Develop a plan to address high turnover.” Sounds like a good goal to achieve, but this type of goal is fraught with complications. A plan to by done by when? A plan to move turnover from what to what? A plan that allows you to spend a million dollars changing the compensation plan or one that simply addresses your 50-person call center?

My favorite: how do I know I am succeeding along the way?

If your company fits this category, you should work closely with your manager — or challenge your manager — about how these goals will be measured so that you have guideposts for your work.

Goals: Measures are there, but they are impossible to attain.

“Reduce cycle time for software development in the company by 20% as measured by project initiation phase to cut over by June 30th.”

Now, you’re a programmer sitting in a cube working on one web application. Clearly, this goal is not attainable by you. I’d work to see how something like that goal, perhaps used in a division of the company, could instead by done on your web application instead.

Goals: can you accomplish this goal with the skills you have in the time frame provided?

In other words, is this goal realistic? In the above example, you can have a great attainable goal, but it won’t be realistic to achieve if you work in operations and don’t have any responsibility for software development.

Goals: There is no time-bound criteria for achieving the goal.

Watch me self-actualize. You might wait a long time!

Savvy goal creators will recognize the almost universal SMART system for creating goals.

Here’s what most people don’t do: they don’t do their own evaluation of the goals being given to them using the SMART system and just accept the goals as provided.

It is important that you and your manager clearly understand how the goals you are being provided meet the SMART criteria — and that you agree with the goals. Negotiation over the measures, the time frame, the other work that needs to be done to meet the goals are all available to be challenged and questioned. And then worked through.

In my entire management career, I’ve only had one person question the goals provided by management at the time the goals were given. As a manager, I took that feedback and modified the goals for that person. You can imagine that this person was a top performer and performing to the goals and the stretch goals that were negotiated was one of the big reasons why.

How are the goals presented in your company? How well are they created or evaluated during the year? Leave out the company name, but let’s hear what your experience has been.

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