The Power of Aligned Goals

It’s the age of unicorn startups with white knights who steal the limelight--a fast-paced thriller of a ride with fickle priorities and competition around every corner. In this age, the idea of a 5-year goal is just not feasible. Lori Becker, CEO and Founder of Boston-based education publishing firm, Publishing Solutions Inc., shares that while she likes the idea of 5-year goal plan, the changing economy and competition forces her to reevaluate. “Instead of a few years out,” she says, “I’m now looking quarter to quarter.”
Setting goals is not an easy task. A simple search on the internet could guide you through an array of goal-setting strategies, advice ranging from “10 steps to setting the perfect goal” to “Why you should have no goals.” Still, proper goal-setting continues to stand as one of our greatest challenges today.  
In hopes of identifying the missing ingredient, we’ve embarked on journeys from perusing the extensive database of goal-setting strategies to interviewing champion goal-setters. What’s the missing link, you ask? What we realized was that the secret to setting the right goal is not in how you set the goal, but in first understanding why you set the goal. In other words: how does each goal align back to the mission, how do your goals support one another, and how do your goals come together to carry out your mission?
We’ve all been a part of strategic planning sessions where every participant seems to carry their own agenda. They come in with their goals all ready to present. Each participant takes his turn presenting his goals, and everyone else at the table listens to him and asks the same questions in their heads.
1.     Why?
What they’re really asking: How does each goal align back to the mission?
You mission is your impact and ultimate message to the world. It’s the why behind the existence of your organization. For this reason, every goal that you set must directly drive that core mission. One important thing to ask while setting goals is whether your goal directly fuels the mission. If not, how can you revise the goal to create a more powerful link? In other words, what is the true purpose of this goal, and how can you change it to create a more direct impact? Oftentimes, what you’ll see is that there is a more effective way to achieve the impact you want to create. 
2.     How will this work?
What they’re really asking: How do our goals come together to carry out the mission?
The greatest challenges are always the ones lurking in the shadows—the ones we should have seen coming but never thought to pay attention to. Before finalizing your goals, it’s crucial to ask: Do these goals come together to tell a story? What picture are our goals painting? 
Rather than focusing all your attention on the next steps for your current projects and initiatives, consider taking some time out to think about how it aligns with everyone else’s agenda, and whether what you’re working on makes sense for the organization and everyone else. The right goal doesn’t just support the current initiatives within your department, it aligns with the other goals to fuel the overall direction and rhythm of the organization.

3.     How does this benefit me?
What they’re really asking: How do our different goals align?
As a final step in goal setting, it’s important to not only to visualize the goals coming together to support your mission, but also how the goals align and support each other. 

What we’ve found after working alongside managers and companies is that if you take all the goals and place them side-by-side, you’ll quickly see the ones that don’t align. 
As seen in our Triple Alignment Model each goal is interconnected in a way that the success of one goal supports the success of another. This doesn’t mean that one is required in order for the others to succeed, but that they’re connected in a mutually supportive way. 

For those who haven’t used our model, the Triple Alignment Model is a strategic & visualization tool that measures alignment between goals & teams, and fundamentally reimagines the way we approach team building and goal setting. If you haven’t already, check out our tools and resources to guide you through your next goal setting session--whether that’s for a new project, new product, or new quarter, you’ll experience the power of alignment. 

Hillary Wen