Keeping It Simple Is Smart When Setting Your Business Goals
Lean leadership and a lean management way of thinking provides countless benefits to a smart and adaptable leader. Lean leadership has value for anyone who is running a team. I’m sure this could be said about hundreds of other methodologies that are promoted as the “best way to run your company.” Lean management is about being more goal-oriented. It’s about solving problems, getting to end results and asking the right questions.
Different methods, same results.
As far as goal setting goes, I’m a big fan of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) methodology. But while this 30-year-old system, popularized by John Doerr and Google, is great, you can make it even more simple. I have done just that and created my own approach to OKRs called Lean OKRs.
The OKR system, as described in Doerr’s book Measure What Matters, is already pretty simple. When you start using OKRs, you set inspirational objectives for your teams and individual employees. From there, you measure the progress made towards these objectives with measurable key results on a weekly basis.
Usually you have three to five objectives with up to five key results for each of those objectives. All those goals are connected, and everyone in the company knows what others are working on. Thanks to that, your entire company works toward the same end goal and understands how their work benefits their team, department and the entire organization. This, in turn, improves employee engagement and productivity, as employees who feel their work matters accomplish more.
Making it even more simple.
My lean approach to goal setting is very simple. Like with the OKR methodology, you set objectives each quarter. However, with Lean OKRs, you only set one big objective for your company, as well as each team and individual. These objectives are, of course, connected, so that employee progress pushes the team and company objectives forward. For each goal, make sure to only set one key result to measure.
Deciding on the one goal can be difficult. I’ve used the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. The rule states that you’ll accomplish 80 percent of your results from just 20 percent of your total tasks. The trick is to figure out which tasks make up that 20 percent.
The benefits of being focused.
This system provides you with a clear and focused approach to work. While I’m not saying a company should only work towards solving one problem at a time, it helps everyone on the team to understand what their main focus is and where they need to be at by the end of the quarter.
If you’re a software company, that one goal might be to launch a product. For a restaurant, it can be to improve customer satisfaction. The specific goal can be anything you and your whole team can tackle together.
This system also functions as a starting point if you’re thinking about implementing the full OKR system in your company. Using lean OKRs provides a clear and simple introduction to the system, which can be painful to implement in a larger team.
Less is more.
Less is more. Steve Jobs said, "That's been one of my mantras -- focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."
Adopting the lean approach to goal setting is not easy. It comes with a variety of challenges, but what it provides well outweighs the negatives. Having a focused understanding of what everyone should focus on is critical to the success of any organization. Lean OKRs provide that focus and push you to move faster on your most critical goals. And they’ll keep your company’s processes simple.