Why organizations should have transparent goals
The world is getting more transparent every day. Globalization, social media, and information platforms on the web have opened up the world to us. We are more informed of everything than a generation ago. And we expect more transparency from our social institutions, such as the state, businesses, and even religion.
On the other hand, the business world still clings to opaque practices established almost a century ago, starting with Frederick Taylor. Hierarchical management structures, a focus on mechanical efficiency instead of innovation, and secretive cascading goal-setting. All outdated, especially the last one.
Top-down, cascading goal-setting doesn’t work as it used to in today’s hybrid, agile, and global business environments. It creates a culture of silos, reduces team alignment and agility, and encourages thoughtless tasks-driven execution. And yet, it persists.
According to a Harvard Business School study, “only 7% of employees fully understand their company’s business strategies and what’s expected of them in order to help achieve company goals”. How can these companies excel when 93% of their workforce is in the dark and not aligned with organizational goals?
Solution? Make the goals transparent. Research and real-world success stories suggest that making your goals open to your entire organization produces better results. The world’s most successful companies, such as Google, Amazon, Deloitte, GE, Intel, Netflix, and Samsung, have transparent goals.
According to research, shared goals are more likely to be accomplished than private ones. Making your goals visible to everyone brings everyone on the same page, boosts collaboration and productivity, and gives employees autonomy to develop innovative solutions to business problems. Here are some more reasons to be transparent with your goals.
Transparency is inherently better
Neuroscience shows that our brains work best when we don’t feel threatened. In business environments, one can feel threatened or stressed because of a lack of clarity, insecurity, and politicking. When you make your goals transparent, employees know everyone’s responsibilities and performance. This clarity shuts down their “fight or flight” mode and drives them to give their best to fulfil organizational goals.
Everyone on the same page
In a survey by MIT Sloan School of Management, 40% of 400 global CEOs cited the lack of alignment as their number one challenge to executing strategy. Transparent goals help employee align their individual goals with those of the organization. This alignment drives teams to hit their targets. According to a Harvard Business Review research, aligned employees are 2.2 times more likely to be top performers.
Collaboration among employees and teams is critical to achieving business goals. In a transparent organization, every employee can see each other’s goals and progress. When one employee struggle with something, others come to support. The same goes for collaboration among teams, which is the second most cited challenge by CEOs in executing strategy. Having transparent organizational goals motivates teams to collaborate and come up with unexpected and brilliant solutions.
Better employee relationships
In a recent BCG survey, employees put the relationship with colleagues and superiors as their top two work priorities. Having transparent goals fosters teamwork among employees. That creates trust, turns competitors into collaborators, and deepens work relationships. When employees know they are working with others to achieve the same goals, they are more motivated, engaged, and deliver high performance.
Having transparent goals and clear progress charts lowers redundancy inside the company. When everyone knows what everyone else is working on, the chances of two employees or teams unwittingly doing the same thing decrease.
Prioritization brings focus
“I believe most companies fail because they’re not focused…. or they’re focused internally on things like politics and bureaucracy.” Ryan Smith, co-founder and CEO of Qualtrics said in a New York Times interview. Transparent goals help employees prioritize things that contribute to achieving those goals. Prioritization brings focus to the organization and prevents productivity-killing politicking, bureaucracy, and lack of drive.
Enables stretch goals
Google co-founder Larry Page once said, “If you set a crazy, ambitious goal and miss it, you’ll still achieve something remarkable.” He was talking about stretch goals at Google, called “moonshots.” Stretch goals are goals that are somewhere in between audacious and unachievable. While your organizational goals are linear and incremental, your stretch goals can deliver non-linear, groundbreaking results. In Google’s case, Gmail, YouTube, and Chrome all came out of stretch goals.
So, now that you understand transparent goals are better for everyone, let’s discuss how to make it happen. Every organization is unique, and you may need a different approach to achieve it. Here are some things that most of the successful companies with transparent goals share.
OKRs, or Objectives (What) and Key Results (How), is one of the most popular goal-setting frameworks. OKRs are public for everyone to see what objectives the company is trying to achieve and what others are working on. Using OKRs brings transparency and agility into your goal-setting. Read more about OKRs: Here, here, and here.
Share goals, context, and results
Communicate your organizational goals (the “Whats” and “Hows”) with everyone in the company together with the context (the “Whys”). It will give your employees a complete picture of what you are trying to achieve. And once the results are in, share them too. Avoid the temptation to spin. Communicate your failures and learnings, not just wins.
Trust employees to make decisions
After you’ve communicated top-level business goals to your employees, trust them to make decisions independently. Micromanagement is mismanagement. Autonomy is crucial to creativity, innovation, and experimentation. Let your employees forge their own paths to achieve the desired outcomes.
Hire people who care about transparency
Building a transparent organization starts with the interview process. Hire people who care about your mission and values, especially a transparent work culture. The correct candidates will be excited about joining an open environment and not just the role.
Create a communication infrastructure
Communication is crucial in a transparent organization. Build an infrastructure to foster communication in your company. It could be Slack channels, Microsoft Teams, or a modern HR system like Mesh. With Mesh, you can set public goals, manage projects in a better way, and have 1:1s with your employees to coach and develop. Learn more at mesh.ai
Today’s employees have become more purpose-driven, relationship-focused, and aware of the employer’s impact on the world. Having transparent goals earns their trust and provides them with the context, purpose, and motivation to perform their best — a win-win for the company and the employees.