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High Performance Goals: Define 'em and Refine 'em


Jim Limperis, C.P.M., CFPIM
Jim Limperis, C.P.M., CFPIM, Strategic Contracts Manager, Motorola, ING Mansfield, MA 02048, 508-261-4438,
Richard G. Weissman, C.P.M.
Richard G. Weissman, C.P.M., Managing Director, Weissman Training and Development, Hamilton, MA 01982, 978-468-6390,

86th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 2001 

Abstract. Goal setting, and re-setting, is paramount to meet the metrics high performing organizations demand. Otherwise, a purchaser's time may be consumed supporting operational needs. Successful goal setting requires planned follow-up and anticipated goal modification, resulting in directed behaviors and activities that culminate in the focused closure of mutually negotiated objectives.

Introduction. As organizations continue to become leaner and more effective, high performance goals need to be carefully defined and cascaded down the organizational levels. In order to effectively communicate these goals, they must be readily available and accessible to all so that lower-tier goals can be drafted in more detail to directly support the top-level organizational goals. The easiest way to communicate these goals is via an intranet website. The CEO will detail the scope of goals with sufficient clarity so that direct reports can craft measurable, achievable goals to meet top-level objectives. For example, let's assume that you are the commodity manager for third-party OEM assembly boards. Part of your duties include negotiating an agreement and developing measurement performance metrics. Without coupling these metrics into defined corporate goals and objectives, the OEM commodity manager may perform his functional duties in a number of ways. The manager may manage the supplier relationship based on personal paradigms of how best to manage via aggressive cost-cutting initiatives. Perhaps, the manager may direct the relationship based on the significance of the product line being serviced. However, if management of the supplier is based on personal experience or perceived importance of the product line, a critical link may be missing. The corporation may have defined top-level, high-performance goals that stress flexibility in the supply base as paramount to cost-cutting initiatives. Perhaps the product line that they are now marketing is an interim product portfolio until they can develop a wider breadth of lines in a different market niche.

Before defining specific goals, the associate needs to incorporate the organization's goals into a specific deliverable goals that can be impacted at their level of responsibility. What actions are needed within the associate's scope of responsibilities to drive successful behavior to positively impact goal attainment? Are there organizational holes or impregnable silos preventing success from the outset?

Internal Customers. The associate needs to clearly define who benefits by their outputs/deliverables. For example, the associate, a contract negotiator in the supply chain organization, may measure performance by successful and timely negotiation/completion of pending agreements. However, after checking with internal customers who utilize the associate's outputs, a different conclusion may be drawn. The supply chain organization commodity manager may want the agreement to focus on consignment, kanban and flexibility whereas the associate may have been driving cost containment as a key cost driver in the negotiations. The program manager may want the associate to slow down the negotiation process as a program shift may change product focus or supplier preference.

Meetings, Behaviors, Obstacles. The goal process will be an ongoing progression with pre-defined measurement and refinement points that encourage modifications to goal statements and deliverables. The goal process shall also detail other ancillary action items to augment the goal process. These action items will set up processes to support the goal achievement process. For example, the associate shall identify who will be their internal mentor to help them overcome barriers to reach these goals. The associate shall start with a list of four to six individuals who can potentially be mentors or sponsors. This list will be pared down once the associate meets with these individuals and assesses their willingness, capability and bandwidth. The associate shall also identify behaviors that they will practice to meet committed results. Potential obstacles need to be identified that could deter progress to goal attainment. This is not meant as a cop-out or "get-out-of-jail-free-card" that the associate can wield if goals are not met. The purpose is to put the associate's manager on call that their involvement is warranted to remove these obstacles to assist the associate in working through negotiated goals.

Associate-Initiated Meetings. Once goals are proposed by the associate and the action items are identified (i.e., internal mentors, behaviors, obstacles, etc.), the associate shall initiate a meeting with their manager to review the proposed goals and jointly establish timelines. By asking associates to initiate the process, the starting point of goal development will be most indicative of using the associates' skillsets to their best advantage. In most instances, the associate's manager will not have as thorough an understanding of the associate's detailed workload responsibilities. If the reverse process were to occur, i.e., the manager proposes goals for the associate, there is a greater risk that the manager may miss the mark and goals may be imposed which may not be feasible and/or may consume an inordinate amount of time on the part of the associate to validate the invalidity of the proposed goal.

Goal Visibility. One of the strong elements of the personal commitment program is the real-time insight an associate can attain by viewing goal packages throughout the organization. Having complete access to each respective managers' goals up to the president offers the associate exceptional insight into the organization's direction. As well, it allows the associate to validate that the goals mutually negotiated with their direct manager indeed have validity and closure with higher-level goals. A common complaint of associates in the past regarding manager-directed goals was that the associate was being used as a pawn to carry out a focused project that the manager deemed important but had little bearing to top management's goal initiatives. For example, prior to personal commitment, let's assume that the contract negotiator was tasked with renegotiating agreements with key suppliers to implement EDI by year-end. After numerous months of campaigning for support from other functional disciplines (information technology, program management, commodity management, etc.), the associate has made little progress in meeting goal commitments for a myriad of reasons. Information technology does not have the bandwidth to assign resources to EDI system changes; program management product launches may shift strategic supplier significance; commodity management cannot garner supplier commitment to implement EDI. None of the functional disciplines have linked and synced up with goals that canvas each discipline leading to unified goals at the top of the organizational chart.

Quarterly Checkpoints. Follow up meetings shall occur on a quarterly basis. Each goal shall have an in-progress measurement to assure that the goal is still "on target" or "behind schedule". If "behind schedule", the associate shall be prompted to establish an action plan defining how to get back "on target". Less quantifiable goals for the remainder of the year are also refined at each quarterly review. At the end of each review, the associate updates the goals and interim results so that there is a documented chronology as the year unfolds.

As programs shift and emphasis changes, the associate can easily modify the goals to show a proposed addition, deletion and/or enhancement of current goal for discussion at the next quarterly checkpoint. Depending on the magnitude of the proposed goal change, the associate can request an interim meeting to gain closure with the manager on the proposed change.

By shifting the responsibility from the supervisor to the associate for their goal performance and ultimately their merit review, there is more ownership to stay the course with meeting and refining goals during the year.

Summary and Conclusion. Implementing this associate-initiated high-performance goal process results in a personal commitment on the part of each associate-manager team. Through periodic reviews and refinements, this team will support senior managements' personal commitment goals through the successful completion of the associate's goals. This associate-initiated process has resulted in closely-crafted goals that more accurately reflect tangible, albeit, aggressive goals. A secondary benefit is that the associate-initiated process has resulted in more consistent goal review meetings between associate and manager. Periodic meetings results in more frequent adjustments to goals statements to prevent efforts being expended on goals/projects whose strategic importance has shifted. As the associate- manager goal discussions occur more consistently and frequently all the way up the organization, the cumulative effect is that senior management stays in sync with the numerous changes in goals emphasis throughout the organization. This process will result in more directed behavior and activities that will culminate in focused closure of carefully and mutually negotiated goals.

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