Goals: from hierarchical to social

There's something missing in the current goal model

We have been hearing about social recruiting and social learning for a couple years now.  We have also been witness to a performance review backlash, in favor of continuous feedback including public peer feedback.

What about goals? Are they social too?

Goal automation was introduced with fervor years ago in the form of cascading goals.  The cascade depended on a set hierarchy and a rigidity of focus.  Though the promise of business impact via aligning individual work to higher level objectives was well received, organizations struggled with the reality.  First was the problem of coordinating a goal setting sequence in which the top levels set goals, then cascaded them to the next level where they were tweaked, on down to the next, and so on.  Such a process required months of prodding by HR, and by the end, the beleaguered organization encountered the second problem: goals and priorities change.  Maintenance of such a rigid process was impossible.

Over time, goal software has been tweaked to be less rigid and overcome these goal setting barriers.  Namely, the introduction of upward goal alignment allows individuals and managers to set goals at their own pace (i.e. sooner) with visibility into higher level objectives as they become available. The ability to document and communicate priorities in a simple manner has been a breakthrough at many organizations.

But there is still something missing

Goal software enables infrequent communication.  This is useful in terms of aligning strategic priorities and getting some visibility into that alignment.  But, the model fails when it comes to the real needs of the business – getting the right work done and rapidly realigning if not.  Sure, there are fields that track progress and accomplishment.  There is also likely a mechanism to gain visibility into cross-functional goals. And, a workflow notification could be sent when a higher level goal changes.  The bottom line is that participation requires heavy nagging.  And you know what that means.  As much as we want the benefits of goal tracking, it is never going to happen in the current model.

It’s time for a new model

People are working on, collaborating on, and moving forward with goals informally on a daily basis.  They are setting to-do’s, asking for help, updating others, and noting accomplishments.  They are keeping tabs of what is going on around them and how it impacts them and their goals. What’s going on around them has less and less to do with a set hierarchy and more to do with teams and individuals with whom they are connected (both tightly and loosely).  Turns out, goals are social too.

The key question for HR leaders is not whether to shift to a more social orientation for goal updates.  This is inevitable.  The question is whether the social orientation can be added to the traditional hierarchical model of setting and aligning goals or if the hierarchical model needs to be scrapped entirely.

The Rypple team believes it is the latter. Here is a quick view of their bottoms-up, business-oriented approach:

Rypple v3 Walkthrough from Rypple on Vimeo.

Bottom line: Vendors are beginning to incorporate a social orientation to goal execution. Some are enhancing and extending their traditional models to accommodate.  Others are starting from the social perspective to drive immediate and direct business value.  HR Leaders should look carefully at both models and compare cultural fit, adoption, and value to the business.

Your POV: Is it possible to to blend the traditional hierarchical approach with social execution?  Or is a bottoms-up approach the only way to get real work done?

photo credit: fluid-studio.net
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One Response to Goals: from hierarchical to social

  1. Scott Brown says:

    Hi Amy,

    Here’s another resource from the folks at Rypple. “Work better, Play Together?” http://www.slideshare.net/Rypple/work-better-play-together-on-enterprise-gamification

    Read it to learn about common gaming misconceptions. They also review lessons learned from those currently engaged in applying these concepts.

    Some for the content that was most compelling to me were their examples of gaming concepts that are fundamental to some of our largest and most complex organizations: think badges here: http://assets.nydailynews.com/img/2007/09/12/graf_mapofpetraeus.gif