How to Keep Your Team Goals on Track

Keep Goals on Track

“It was so much easier this year to set our team goals, now that we have a shared vision,” Chris remarked, reflecting on the visioning process they had recently completed. “We are way ahead of the curve this year!”

Was he right?  Maybe …. It depends on whether his team’s systems and practices support their vision.

Do their policies and procedures make getting the job done easier or harder?

A team might start off aligned around a shared vision, but unaligned systems and practices can quickly derail them.

Are team members dependent on each other in order to accomplish certain goals?
. . .  If so, what communication processes are in place so they can effectively coordinate their efforts?

Do any of the goals depend on a team effort?
. . .  If so, are they evaluated and compensated solely on the basis of their individual performance?

Does their vision include providing excellent customer service?
. . . If so, do customer-contact people have the authority to make key decisions regarding the customer?

Create “Structural Integrity”

Not only must goals be aligned with your vision, but your team must also have “structural integrity” – all of the underlying systems and processes that support your team must be designed to steer you in the direction you want to go.


To ensure your team stays on track, examine each of these systems:

1. Information – Do team members have direct access to the information they need to in order to accomplish their goals?

2. Feedback and communication – What do you need to communicate with each other? Where, when and how is the best way? What kind of feedback do you need in order to track your progress?

3. Rewards, recognition and compensation – How will you reward and celebrate team accomplishments as well as individual contribution?

4. Training – In order to implement your goals, what skills are needed? Do you need to develop team skills such as conflict management or giving feedback?

5. Accountability – How will you hold yourself and each other accountable?
I received this message on Twitter yesterday: “Our HR manager cheated on a Quiz in front of colleagues the day before speech on values.” Ignoring issues this this will derail your team faster than anything.

6. Control and authority – Do team members have the authority they need to do their job?
Last week UPS sent me an email that they were delivering a package during a 4-7 pm window and that someone needed to be there to sign for it. I arranged to be there, but the package wasn’t delivered. I called customer service who told me they had put it on the wrong truck and would deliver it the next day during the same window. I explained that was not a convenient window and, since it was their mistake, to please give me an earlier one. She said I could only make that request online and there would be a fee. She didn’t have the power to change the window herself or to waive the fee. The only power she had was to apologize.

14 comments to How to Keep Your Team Goals on Track

  • Great post, Jesse! I love this concept of “structural integrity”… tying ones systems and processes to the overall vision in order to achieve success. There is so much talk about teamwork, but you must have the infrastructure in place. Without it, the team members can fail and lose faith in the overall vision. So it seems to me that “structural integrity” can be directly tied to morale.

    The six systems that you describe are wonderful. I certainly need to work on the rewards and celebrating successes. It is so easy to let this one slip especially when things get hectic. Thanks for the the reminder. Communication systems and mutual accountability are key, especially with Leadership Teams.

    Inspiring post! Thank you.

    • Good point, Stephen. Structural integrity is directly tied to morale (as well as productivity). It is easy to overlook one of these systems, which is why I wanted to list them all. If even one is misaligned, it creates a current that pushes against rather than supports your goals.

  • I would unhesitatingly join in a protest forum on the way delegation of authority to respond is treated on these (automated) customer care(!) mechanisms.

    However, the fault line is quite visible here. But the practice of delegation, with a hand on a steering wheel or foot on either a brake or an acceleration pedal is more of a norm.
    It is certainly quite unfortunate, but that is the way the human psychology of fear of being replaced out does seem to work. ( I hope I am proved wrong.

    Thus, # 2 and #6 would seem to go hand-in-hand.
    In my own view, judiciously leveraging the grape-wine channels, in conjunction with the formal channels, may be able to provide that succor to those leaders who have a lurking fear of things happening the back.

    • The willingness to let go of control actually affects all areas. For example, many organizations share information on solely a “need to know” basis, with the “need to know” determine by the boss, not the person doing the job. This post is directed specifically to teams that have created a shared vision. They may need to struggle with personal fears but as you point out, if they can communicate openly, they will have the ability to support each other. The important issue is to put the underlying structures in place so they have the opportunity to have these conversations. As always, thanks for sharing your thought-provoking views, Ashok.

  • Great post Jesse, just yesterday I was coaching a manager that felt she needed to move on because she had reached her potential and could do her job in her sleep. But when we looked down the tracks a little we discovered that while she was still on the track, in fact she had come unhitched from the main train (the company and its leadership). Neither they (the company) or she, the (manager) had been in touch enough (feedback in a system) to realize that she was not hitched to the main train. Your points 1 & 2.

    A company and its employees are a large system where feedback is critical to the effectiveness and efficiency. If feedback takes too much time to reach the place of change, or feedback never arrives, then the train (company) can slowly fall to pieces. In the case of the manager, she had forgotten to look up and give feedback, and the leadership had forgotten to look back, or at least look at the lack of feedback they were getting from management (UPS might want to look at your list).

    In my managers case her behavior was affecting performance so much that she had forgotten her own personal vision, and she was not happy (no.3 just not happening).

    The company had forgotten how important she was to the effectiveness of the system and not seen that their visions were no longer aligned. Feedback had stopped both ways and they had no mechanism in place to alert them of this and correct with (No.4 & 5).

    If you look at company vision (which is hopefully aligned with employee vision) as structure and employees as behavior then you can see that both affect each other. My manager had forgotten to look within her own systems to see that she had come disconnected with her job and her own personal vision. The company had forgotten to get feedback and also forgot to have another system in place to set up some alarm when feedback stopped.

    Do UPS have these systems in place, or perhaps they do but because they have little competition they do not feel the need to warrant a change. UPS is a huge system with thousands of systems within their systems, it is surely a hard place to look at one part and say it is not running well, but your point here would certainly give them some help with No.6.

    Thanks for this, will forward the link to the manager I was coaching yesterday as it adds some great perspective.

  • Once again– great post. So often, once the vision is set, the day-to-day ability to bring that vision into reality is abandoned. It happened yesterday with Anthem Blue Cross. After an hour wait and being shifted from department to department– I hing up, went to their web site and was delighted to see a phone number for a real person who could answer any questions. Seems to be an outside firm that deal in insurance issues. The on-hold message promised incredible service. However, the agent whom I finally got said that because I didn’t buy the policy directly from him, I had to go to the doom loop called Anthem Blue Cross. Might have had a vision of service but no one looked at the system.

    Thanks, Jesse, for once again- your clarity of thought.

    • The exact same thing happened to me with Anthem! Because the Anthem reps are compensated on sales commissions, they are not motivated to provide customer service to customers who got their insurance through an intermediary. A great example of misaligned systems! However, the question is whether they have a shared vision. If they do, then they need to look at their systems. If they don’t, it really doesn’t matter because people are going in different directions anyway.

  • We noticed the most significant growth and improvement in our organization in regards to vision alignment when we overhauled our feedback system. We would communicate our five core values over and over. I believe what get’s repeated get’s remembered. But, we still couldn’t get our team, and therefore our organization, to deliver on our five core values. Then, we revamped our feedback system We now ask 7 questions over and over. The first 5 are each directly related to one of the five core values. For example, our first core value is Safety First. Our first feedback question is…”Do you have any concerns relating to staff or guest safety?” The last two questions are….”Did you abstain from and detest gossip at all cost?” and “How can we improve delivery on our PNM (the acronym we use to describe our brand..Place Name Mission)?”

  • Superbly said. Structural integrity and your points are key to success. And the first, information, spoke to me. Recently, I was listening to a group of executives who were presenting their business (it was for sale). I was evaluating the market and determining whether their projections made sense. Because of this, I was asking lots of questions. What struck me was how surprised some of the team members acted when others gave answers. It turns out, the team learned more in the sales presentation than in their normal business meetings!

    • Great story, Skip! Obviously information was closely held in this company and/ or the executives were in such a silo mentality they didn’t see the value of looking at the bigger picture. I bet it was an interesting meeting for all involved. And good information for you. When someone buys a company, they are buying the whole thing – not just the output, but also the processes, practices, systems and attitudes. It’s always interesting to me how often leaders don’t understand the relationship between what they consider the “soft” stuff and their bottom line.

  • Khathran

    I love what you discribed in your post especially what you mentioned about the Feedback and communication

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