Welcome back to the Culture Hacker blog series, which examines the cultural mechanisms that influence the mindset and attitude of your associates. If you haven’t read the previous blogs in this series, please check them out, because they establish a foundation and tell a story about what you as a leader should be focused on today.

This month I will focus on objectives and results – the things you are meant to deliver on to help your organization be better. By educating your people on your company objectives, updating them on company results, and getting them involved in improvement planning, you have the ultimate win-win – a more successful company and more engaged team members. There are four keys to getting your team engaged and involved in the success of your company.

4 Ways to Involve Your Team in Improvement Planning

Simplify Your Objectives


Let’s start by understanding objectives and what each business should focus on. An objective is simple – it is a goal – something you aim to reach. I have been involved with many companies across many industries, and my first observation is that they have too many goals and too much complexity around what they want to achieve. KISS – keep it simple, stupid! Please put that sentence up on your wall when you host an annual strategy meeting to work out what to aim for next year.

There are only four main objectives that your business should care about:

  • Improve the bottom line
  • Increase market share
  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Improve employee satisfaction

The one other objective you might consider is to improve your community engagement, as this has become a very important focus for many companies. Now that the objectives are set, you need to get specific with the number, score, or result you want to achieve for each objective. You also need to determine what measurements will be engaged to provide those scores. Once the goals and measurements are defined, you have the objectives and are ready to engage everyone in your company to help achieve them.

Share Your Results

Creating collaboration and alignment sounds simple, but many organizations and managers act like these objectives are state secrets and withhold the scores and results each month. This outdated thinking is seriously hindering the performance of many organizations. If your people don’t know the goals or the scores, then how the heck can you expect them to be engaged and responsible for helping you achieve them?

It is this type of thinking that leads to Gallup posting annual survey results indicating that much of the workforce is not engaged. You wonder why your business does not achieve its goals every year; well, you ensured that outcome by not making everyone in your business aware of your objectives and results each month. Peter Drucker, the famous business consultant, had it right when he said, “Management by objective works – if you know the objectives and your results. 90% of the time, you don’t know either.”

So, let’s talk about quite possibly the business buzzword of this decade so far – transparency. It means to make things clear; to lack hidden agendas; to make information easily available for the purpose of collaboration, cooperation and decision-making. So, when it comes to your objectives and scores, be transparent and stop the outdated thinking that your team members are not smart enough or interested enough to know and participate in the company’s success.

Seek Out Feedback


With regards to scores, if you are not going to measure your performance against your goals, then you are not serious about achieving those results. You must have a series of objective measurements in place to know how your company is performing. While many companies are comfortable with how they measure their financial performance, other goals around market share, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction can be vague and a little more subjective.

You have to invest in measurement with all of the major shareholders – owners, customers, and employees. In the Harvard Business Review article, “Corporate Culture and Performance,” John Kotter and James Heskett assessed that, “Firms with cultures that emphasized all the key managerial constituencies (customers, stockholders, and employees) outperformed firms that did not.”

Feedback from customers and employees must be ongoing, not part of some one-off or annual survey program. The use of technology to keep a pulse on customers and staff makes sense in this world of instant gratification. People want to feel they’re being heard right away.

Your scores or results need to be tabulated into a single scorecard that is easy to read and understand by your team. Take the time to educate staff on what each score means and where it is in relation to the annual objectives. Ensure each team member understands how their position impacts the company objectives. Create a culture whereby staff seeks out monthly results to see how they did. And remember, results need to be shared no matter if they’re good, bad, or ugly. By sharing key results with your staff you can open up conversations that are forthright and honest, and, most importantly, can allow you to involve staff in the process of improving those scores.

Get Your Team Involved


Now that you are sharing objectives and results, it’s time to develop a plan to achieve the goals or improve the scores. You will not improve or achieve the objectives without a plan, or as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Princesaid, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” When developing a plan, get out of your office and get your people involved. Educate your people on the objectives and make them aware of the scores: challenge them to come up with ideas about how to improve. Their involvement in developing the plan ensures better buy-in, better and more relevant ideas from the front line, and more engagement in your business.

When it comes to engaging team members in improvement planning and execution, SGEi teaches the following as a best practice to many organizations:

  • In a department meeting allow 15 minutes of brainstorming. Remember there are no bad ideas, so just collect all of their thoughts.
  • Assign a smaller group of team members along with the manager the task of clarifying and prioritizing the ideas. The focus should be on ideas that the group and manager can control. Anything not in their control, such as payroll increases, should be left on the list but noted as not something that is actionable right now.
  • Present the updated list back to your team or department identifying the one or two items you are going to focus on first. Assign participants to teams that will work on developing a more detailed plan and then executing that plan.
  • Write down the plan and update it regularly with progress. Make the plan accessible to everyone on the team and update them on progress. We recommend using the SMARTR Plan template for action plans.
  • Once you have successfully implemented any changes, monitor your scores for improvement and adjust as necessary.
  • Repeat! Update your priority list with any new ideas and focus on the next task in your plan to achieve your goals.

Horst Schulze, former President of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company said it perfectly: “We make sure our employees are engaged in the strategies of our company, because that’s the only way they become a part of the company, rather than just coming to work and fulfilling a function.” If you want to engage your people, then let them in on your worst kept secret – what you want to achieve and how you are doing each month. When given such information, your staff will not only be more engaged in your business, but will also be willing to take on the responsibility of improving every outcome.