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© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
Goals: The Missing Link
Between Strategy and
Execution
Don Sull
MIT
@simple_rules
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
2#GoalSummit
STRATEGY
? RESULTS
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
3#GoalSummit
Goal Summit Mobile App
1 2 3 4
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
4#GoalSummit
Which is the biggest obstacle to executing
your company’s strategy?
q  Lack of performance culture
q  Activities do not support our strategy
q  Lack of agility
q  Inability to work across silos
q  We have a strategy
Results
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
5#GoalSummit
Goals drive execution in four ways
Blinder Link
Bold
Hypothesis Signal
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
6#GoalSummit
80% 90%
Goals as blinders
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
7#GoalSummit
Source: Survey of 8265 respondents in 305 organizations. Number of respondents varies by question.
Blinders drive performance
92%
87%
44%
35%
Specific
Handful
Regular
feedback
Ambitious
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
8#GoalSummit
% of employees who answered “Make ambitious commitments even if you are not sure how
to achieve them”
Imagine you were giving advice to a newly hired manager. What suggestion
would you give about making performance commitments?
Source: Survey of 5385 respondents in 192 organizations.
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
9#GoalSummit
59%
11%
8%
5%
5%
1%
Past performance
Technical expertise
Acting with integrity
Political connections
Ability to adapt to change
Pursuing ambitious goals
Factor that most influences promotions
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
10#GoalSummit
Goals as links
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
11#GoalSummit
Links align activities to strategy
Source: Survey of 8265 respondents in 305 organizations. Number of respondents varies by question.
84%
66%
46%
42%
Developed goals with my
boss
My goals link to my unit's
goals
My boss explains how our
goals support company
strategy
Know company's top 3
goals
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
12#GoalSummit
If a strategy falls into
a company and no one
understands it, does it
make a difference?
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
13#GoalSummit
Goals as bold hypothesis
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
14#GoalSummit
R. M. Cyert and J. G. March, 1963, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall)
Conservative goals narrow search
•  Incremental improvements
•  Me-too innovations
•  Cost reductions
-----------Goal-----------
--------Status Quo-------
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
15#GoalSummit
-------Goal-------
R. M. Cyert and J. G. March, 1963, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall)
Ambitious goals trigger broad search
--------Status Quo-------
•  Disruptive innovation
•  Creative solutions
•  Build new capabilities
•  Business model innovation
•  Rapid learning
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
16#GoalSummit
Goals guide iteration
Source: Survey of 8265 respondents in 305 organizations. Number of respondents varies by question.
27%
28%
34%
50%
Discuss difficult issues
openly and honestly
Consstently analyze
variance from goal
Met regularly with boss to
discuss progress
Revise goals more than
once per yearSet goals
ExecuteCourse
correct
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
17#GoalSummit
Goals as signal
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
18#GoalSummit
Goals for coordination
Source: Survey of 8265 respondents in 305 organizations. Number of respondents varies by question.
12%
21%
35%
Can learn colleagues'
performance
Can learn colleagues'
goals
Key partners
understand our goals
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
19#GoalSummit
1
2
1 1 1 1
3 3 3
4
3
6
5
7 7
10
0246810
#ofOrgs
0 .2 .4 .6 .8 1
% Public
N = 58 orgs
Organizations that created its first goal after start of quarter and organizations with fewer than
10 goals are not included. Deleted goals are not included.
% of Goals in Org that are Public
2015 Q4
Transparency
Goals want to be transparent
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
20#GoalSummit
Strategy
• Develop strategy for
execution
• Ambitious but not delusional
• Maintain shared strategic
context
ResultsGoals
Leadership capabilities
• Master goal setting best practices
• Provide useful feedback frequently
• Lead discussions to course correct
Performance
management
• Linkage of goals to compensation?
• Promote on ambition? Performance?
Resource allocation
• Allocation of money and talent linked to
goals
• Resources reallocated on same cadence
as goals are revised
Data analytics
• Tailor data to goal-specific metrics
• Draw on multiple, external, real-time data
sources
• Ensure data is timely, granular, and credible
© Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull
21#GoalSummit
Risks of goals Steps to manage risk
Decrease cooperation •  Hire and promote team players
•  Decouple compensation from individual goals
•  Visualize interdependencies
Cut corners •  Strong checks and balances for key risks
•  Fire leaders who cut ethical corners
•  Make goals and performance transparent
Inhibit learning •  Mix mastery and performance goals
•  Don’t link compensation directly to mastery goals
•  Reduce target completion rate
Decrease intrinsic motivation •  Employees generate own goals
•  Encourage tinkering
•  Align goals to inspiring mission
Short-term focus •  Link quarterly goals to longer-term strategy
•  Break long-term goals into shorter sprints
Tunnel vision •  Multiple metrics per goal
•  Ongoing discussion of weak signals and anomalies
•  Tolerate some positive deviance
•  Encourage tinkering
List of known risk from Ordonez, L., Schweitzer, M. E., Galinsky, A., & Bazerman, M. (2009). Goals gone wild: How
goals systematically harm individuals and organizations. Academy of Management Perspectives, 23 (1), X–X

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Goal Summit 2016: Goals – The Missing Link Between Strategy and Execution

  • 1. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull Goals: The Missing Link Between Strategy and Execution Don Sull MIT @simple_rules
  • 2. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 2#GoalSummit STRATEGY ? RESULTS
  • 3. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 3#GoalSummit Goal Summit Mobile App 1 2 3 4
  • 4. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 4#GoalSummit Which is the biggest obstacle to executing your company’s strategy? q  Lack of performance culture q  Activities do not support our strategy q  Lack of agility q  Inability to work across silos q  We have a strategy Results
  • 5. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 5#GoalSummit Goals drive execution in four ways Blinder Link Bold Hypothesis Signal
  • 6. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 6#GoalSummit 80% 90% Goals as blinders
  • 7. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 7#GoalSummit Source: Survey of 8265 respondents in 305 organizations. Number of respondents varies by question. Blinders drive performance 92% 87% 44% 35% Specific Handful Regular feedback Ambitious
  • 8. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 8#GoalSummit % of employees who answered “Make ambitious commitments even if you are not sure how to achieve them” Imagine you were giving advice to a newly hired manager. What suggestion would you give about making performance commitments? Source: Survey of 5385 respondents in 192 organizations.
  • 9. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 9#GoalSummit 59% 11% 8% 5% 5% 1% Past performance Technical expertise Acting with integrity Political connections Ability to adapt to change Pursuing ambitious goals Factor that most influences promotions
  • 10. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 10#GoalSummit Goals as links
  • 11. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 11#GoalSummit Links align activities to strategy Source: Survey of 8265 respondents in 305 organizations. Number of respondents varies by question. 84% 66% 46% 42% Developed goals with my boss My goals link to my unit's goals My boss explains how our goals support company strategy Know company's top 3 goals
  • 12. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 12#GoalSummit If a strategy falls into a company and no one understands it, does it make a difference?
  • 13. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 13#GoalSummit Goals as bold hypothesis
  • 14. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 14#GoalSummit R. M. Cyert and J. G. March, 1963, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall) Conservative goals narrow search •  Incremental improvements •  Me-too innovations •  Cost reductions -----------Goal----------- --------Status Quo-------
  • 15. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 15#GoalSummit -------Goal------- R. M. Cyert and J. G. March, 1963, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall) Ambitious goals trigger broad search --------Status Quo------- •  Disruptive innovation •  Creative solutions •  Build new capabilities •  Business model innovation •  Rapid learning
  • 16. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 16#GoalSummit Goals guide iteration Source: Survey of 8265 respondents in 305 organizations. Number of respondents varies by question. 27% 28% 34% 50% Discuss difficult issues openly and honestly Consstently analyze variance from goal Met regularly with boss to discuss progress Revise goals more than once per yearSet goals ExecuteCourse correct
  • 17. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 17#GoalSummit Goals as signal
  • 18. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 18#GoalSummit Goals for coordination Source: Survey of 8265 respondents in 305 organizations. Number of respondents varies by question. 12% 21% 35% Can learn colleagues' performance Can learn colleagues' goals Key partners understand our goals
  • 19. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 19#GoalSummit 1 2 1 1 1 1 3 3 3 4 3 6 5 7 7 10 0246810 #ofOrgs 0 .2 .4 .6 .8 1 % Public N = 58 orgs Organizations that created its first goal after start of quarter and organizations with fewer than 10 goals are not included. Deleted goals are not included. % of Goals in Org that are Public 2015 Q4 Transparency Goals want to be transparent
  • 20. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 20#GoalSummit Strategy • Develop strategy for execution • Ambitious but not delusional • Maintain shared strategic context ResultsGoals Leadership capabilities • Master goal setting best practices • Provide useful feedback frequently • Lead discussions to course correct Performance management • Linkage of goals to compensation? • Promote on ambition? Performance? Resource allocation • Allocation of money and talent linked to goals • Resources reallocated on same cadence as goals are revised Data analytics • Tailor data to goal-specific metrics • Draw on multiple, external, real-time data sources • Ensure data is timely, granular, and credible
  • 21. © Copyright 2016 Donald N. Sull 21#GoalSummit Risks of goals Steps to manage risk Decrease cooperation •  Hire and promote team players •  Decouple compensation from individual goals •  Visualize interdependencies Cut corners •  Strong checks and balances for key risks •  Fire leaders who cut ethical corners •  Make goals and performance transparent Inhibit learning •  Mix mastery and performance goals •  Don’t link compensation directly to mastery goals •  Reduce target completion rate Decrease intrinsic motivation •  Employees generate own goals •  Encourage tinkering •  Align goals to inspiring mission Short-term focus •  Link quarterly goals to longer-term strategy •  Break long-term goals into shorter sprints Tunnel vision •  Multiple metrics per goal •  Ongoing discussion of weak signals and anomalies •  Tolerate some positive deviance •  Encourage tinkering List of known risk from Ordonez, L., Schweitzer, M. E., Galinsky, A., & Bazerman, M. (2009). Goals gone wild: How goals systematically harm individuals and organizations. Academy of Management Perspectives, 23 (1), X–X