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Create goals and work toward them

The “what” question identifies the core of the goal and must be answered in relationship to the customer in mind. A review of the organizational vision and key strategies is important. Team leaders should give their team members the top seven or eight parameters that drive the business and are within the team’s area of control. The team leaders can also share the organization’s priorities regarding improvement areas.

The second goal-setting question asks “where” the team will focus their efforts. The “where” question could be answered by identifying a particular piece of equipment, a process, or a particular plant layout. The third question asks “when” the efforts will begin and “when” the results will be expected. The fourth question asks “who” will be involved. At this point, specific team member names must be attached to each step in the improvement plan.

When I work with teams to create goals, I like to break the team into two or three groups of three or four team members each and let each group choose a different variable on which to set a goal. Some examples of appropriate team variables are productivity, on-time deliveries, waste reduction and customer complaints. The sub-group should decide what the desired outcome is and how much improvement on the variable is possible. Historical data about the team’s performance on these variables in the past should be shared. Then the team identifies the magnitude of improvement to which they are willing to commit. The magnitude is often expressed in terms of percentages although other numerical measurements are possible. Finally, the subgroup should determine the steps required to accomplish the goal. Then, I bring the team back together to share and discuss each goal proposal and come to consensus.

Once the goal setting is completed, measurements to determine its success must be identified. Measurements come from the goal itself. If the goal is to reduce waste, counting and recording mechanisms must be implemented as close to where the waste is created as possible. The reliability of this measurement process is critical. The communication of the team’s progress or lack of progress on the goal must be shared on a regular basis. Daily, weekly or monthly up-dates may be appropriate.

How these progress updates will be shared is also important. Some teams use communication boards where the figures are posted so everyone can see where they are on the progress on their goals. The team goal-setting process is critical to continuous performance improvement and should be administered at least once a year with the entire team. With this process any organization can focus their team members on the most important issues and create a feeling of true ownership.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s book, “Tons of Stone Above My Head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons,” visit his website, raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.

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