Interdepartmental collaboration in support of achieving business goals is essential these days to getting anything done however, when considering the process of setting collective organizational goals, remember that not all goals are created equally. In most organizations today, results are compartmentalized by departments whose executives see themselves as having little or no responsibility outside their functional expertise, usually working on their own teams’ projects and deliverables. This couldn’t be further from the truth; departmental goals are fine but what the organization really needs is a thematic goal - a single, qualitative focus that is shared by the entire leadership team – and, ultimately, by the entire organization.
An essential part of the thematic goal-setting process is ensuring that your senior leaders invest whatever time is necessary at the outset for them to define and align on the goal; failure to do so could result in significant disagreements down the road that jeopardize the group's efforts. As your group is aligning on the goals, be prepared for a little conflict, as divergent opinions will likely surface about what’s most important to the business right now. Put your facilitator hat on to ensure the group gets through these important ‘creative tension’ moments, as when each leader has the opportunity to articulate their perspective, the business learns, and old paradigms of thinking are challenged. The objectives that come out of these brainstorming sessions lead to the building blocks that help to precisely identify what the thematic goal implies. They are usually common objectives that are shared across the organization, are qualitative, and are bound by a specific measure of time.
In contrast to thematic goals, organizational goals derived from the strategic planning process are different. Strategic planning is usually defined as a deliberative, disciplined approach to producing fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is and what it must do to meet its goals - goals that have usually been designed based on diagnosing departmental issues that need to be addressed. This approach usually results in multiple goals for the organization, which then requires the group to identify the problems that need to be addressed to achieve the goals. These types of goals can last anywhere from three to five years, meaning that you only need to revisit and tweak this plan each year, but the bulk of your annual planning time should be focused on what has developed with some urgency in your business today. Goals from the strategic planning process are fundamentally different from thematic goals, which are always singular in focus, shorter term by nature, and often referred to as a rallying cry throughout the organization.
The area that both goal-setting approaches have in common is the collaborative nature in which the goals were created. The central aspect of successful collaboration is rooted in shared, purposeful goals that bring people together, allowing departments to work together with mutual understanding, a common vision, and shared resources to achieve collective goals. Good things happen amongst team members when they are working on shared goals, things like the sharing of resources, higher levels of camaraderie, and more patience for managing any differences that may come up. In contrast, goals that are viewed as competitive can often result in ineffective interactions, negative feelings, little progress, and diminished relationships, not good results in today’s restricted labour market. The question then becomes one of how to promote inter-departmental collaboration between professionals who view the world in significantly different ways. To unlock the incremental intelligence that can come from inter-departmental collaboration, we must first learn how to appreciate the diversity in our thought process and use that diversity to face complex challenges. Putting pressure on yourself with the mistaken belief that we need to either stand-alone to achieve results and recognition or forfeit our individuality and viewpoints to take in the perspective of a larger group does not promote collaboration.
So, as you set out to revisit next year’s business goals, ask yourself, what’s the single most important thing that HAS to happen in our business next year? Somewhere in that contemplation lives your thematic goal, so plan accordingly and dig in!!