Tips for Achieving Goal Alignment

Lin Grensing-Pophal
May 21, 2021

Tips for Achieving Goal Alignment

Consider a small, privately held organization with an owner/CEO, a salesperson, and an administrative aide. The owner/CEO establishes the goals and expected outcomes for the organization and the salesperson, administrative aide and CEO work together to achieve them. Pretty straightforward. And, theoretically, that’s the way things work (or should work) in organizations of any size. Of course, the larger the organization becomes, the more challenging it is to ensure consistency and alignment of messaging from the top of the organization, through senior and mid-level management and down to the front lines so that everybody is working in concert—or, in other words, so that goals are aligned.

That, of course, is the goal in any organization. Here are some tips on how managers can work with their departments and colleagues to achieve goal alignment.

Understand the Company’s Goals

Ideally, goal setting and goal achievement should top at the top of the organization and cascade down, level by level to the front lines, ensuring that each person’s activities are designed to contribute directly to goal attainment. For that to happen, an obvious first step is for managers to ensure that they fully understand the company’s goals. And, not only that, but that they also understand how their activities, and the activities of their direct reports, contribute to achieving those goals.

Understand How Your Department, or Function, Contributes to Goal Achievement

Based on our organization’s goals and the specific strategies and objectives established, what activities do you and the members of your department/function do to contribute to goal achievement? Which are the most critical activities? How should your time and effort be focused to most efficiently and effectively achieve goals?

Work with Staff to Align Goals

Be very explicit with your staff members about how their work impacts department, function and organizational goal attainment. Help them understand how their use of time and prioritization of work activities contributes to organizational success.

“Goal alignment is important for managers—and organizations—to ensure that teams are working toward a common goal,” says Carlos Castelán, managing director of The Navio Group, a management consulting firm. “To better align teams and organizations, it’s important to establish 3-5 key objectives for a company as a whole that can be tracked and measured,” he says. “Different functions can align around those goals and identify what activities and goals they can achieve to hit the larger company goals.” For support departments or functions—finance, or marketing, for instance—goals can be established around how their activities support others.

Work with Staff to Measure and Monitor Success

Companies are generally plagued by three layers of unclear goals, says Josh Rovner, a business consultant and the author of Unbreak the System: Diagnosing and Curing the Ten Critical Flaws in Your Company. “Unclear goals” is critical flaw #4 in his book.

Unclear goals, says Rovner, generally occur because of:

  • Misaligned key performance indicators (KPIs). Is the company measuring the outcomes that directly impact goal attainment?
  • Imprecise measurements. Are goals specific and measurable?
  • Poor applicability. Are goals shared across the company?

Once goals have been defined and shared across the company, Rovner says, they need to be tracked and the results need to be visible to everyone in a clear and simple way. “Everyone should be able to tell within 3-0 seconds whether the goal has been met or not, or the progress toward the goal,” Rovner says. “Your visual tracking should be as simple as looking at the scoreboard for a baseball, basketball, football, soccer or hockey game—or any other sport, for that matter. When you’re watching a game and someone come sin from outside the room and asks, ‘what’s the score?,’ anyone in the room can shout it out within 10 seconds.” Strive for that kind of simplicity and shared understanding with organizational, department and individual goals.

Employees need ongoing feedback and information to help them ensure they are working on the right things and achieving desired outcomes. Again, this should occur from the top to the front lines of the organization to ensure alignment.

Move Beyond the “What” to the “Why”

One of the most common mistakes that managers make, says Hamish Mackenzie, founder and lead consultant with Hamish Mackenzie Consulting, is only explaining the “what” of the goal, and not the “why.” He recommends:

  • Always explaining the “why”
  • Ensuring employees understand the benefits—to them—of aligning with the goal
  • Ensuring employees have the tools and resources they need to align with the goal
  • Creating milestones or checkpoints and checking in with employees regularly to assess progress and make necessary adjustments

By taking explicit steps to ensure goal alignment at every layer of the organization, companies can boost the odds that their strategic objectives will be achieved. What steps could you put in place today to improve goal alignment in your organization?


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