Aligning Diverse Goals – Learn a simple strategy to solve the puzzle
by Mirella Menti
At one time or another we’ve all been responsible for reaching certain goals. You may have a couple in mind right now. And of course we all feel great when we achieve those objectives. However, reaching goals is not always easy. Have you ever been in a meeting or situation with very high tension because everybody had a lot at stake? Do you remember how everyone was motivated to stand up for their own goals?
The One Goal vs. Many Goals
Goals are essential for companies and organizations as well as for individuals. Without them we would be disoriented -- not knowing what to do or where to start. Most companies and organizations have a few big goals that frame their strategy. Usually these big goals are then broken down into many smaller goals that support the Purpose and the Why -- and come together to make up the bigger objectives of the organization. Think of it like using many small puzzle pieces to create the big picture.
With the goals all set, everyone should be heading in the same direction. So why is it sometimes so difficult in meetings? Each person knows his or her piece of the puzzle very well and brings it to the meeting. The challenge, however, starts when they try to put it all together without knowing what the puzzle – or final objective – looks like. People may not easily see how everything is connected. They may see their own piece or goal but not the whole picture or purpose.
Simple Strategy to Solve the Puzzle
As a leader, this is the point where you have to help the group see how things are connected. Keeping with the puzzle analogy, there are some very simple steps to solve the situation:
Explain the big picture.Describe the whole picture or purpose that led to the goals – both big and small. For instance, one very good way is to have somebody from senior management kick off the meeting. A well-prepared kick-off will illustrate the big picture without getting into the individual puzzle pieces or telling how those pieces should go together.That will still be up to the people working on those specific goals.
Start at the corners. First, find the “corner” pieces just like you’d do for a jigsaw puzzle. Those are important elements that tie the puzzle together and establish a common ground. A good way to accomplish this is to start the meeting with a brainstorming activity on what the expectations are. List them on a flip chart. From there it’s very easy to go through the list and find out what goals are most important toward achieving that purpose.
Work your way around the edges. The edge pieces of a puzzle are usually easier to identify since they have a distinct flat shape on one side. In a meeting or business environment, these are the goals everybody can agree on -- the pieces that can be easily placed. They’re the next general steps and/or sub-goals that are required to connect the common goals. They help clarify what things need to be done next.
Fill the middle. This is the fine art of finding the right place for all the puzzle pieces. You need to find the right shapes and connect those pieces to create the big picture. See how the individual goals are interconnected and what part of the company strategy they support.
And always keep in mind that sometimes puzzle pieces just haven’t been cut very well -- so a closer look is required and some reshaping might be necessary. You might need a little more effort for this reshaping but you shouldn’t force the fit. The same is true of goals. An open atmosphere along with a continuous exchange and sharing of information will promote understanding. It will make the alignment run smoothly – and bring the big picture into focus.
Mirella Menti is a Global Leadership Coach and Trainer. Her company, Menti - Global Leadership Transformation, is dedicated to serve leaders, managers, and organizations to develop competencies and capabilities for the global business environment. For more information, please visit www.menti-glt.com.