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In conversation with MIT’s Donald Sull, Doerr explains the key advantages of developing OKRs and why companies must turn their focus to setting the right objectives.
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Traditional SMART goal setting works well on an individual level, but isn’t quite as useful for companies as a whole — because such goals lack transparency, so it’s hard to align them across employees and business silos. A new framework for goal setting for improved alignment uses the acronym FAST: set goals frequently, make them ambitious, measure them with specific metrics, and make them transparent.
The conventional wisdom of goal setting is so deeply ingrained that managers rarely stop to ask if it works. The traditional approach to goals — the annual cycle, privately set and reviewed goals, and a strong linkage to incentives — can actually undermine the alignment, coordination, and agility that’s needed for a company to execute its strategy.
The traditional “SMART” approach to goal setting may no longer offer companies the best path forward. In a continually changing competitive environment, companies should develop their goals in the context of current conditions.
Successful multinationals get that way by finding better ways to leverage operational improvements across the entire company. But developing such superior processes is not easy. New operational ideas fail for many reasons. One of the most common is not that the idea was bad, but that the developers set up a pilot that failed to persuade managers in the units that the process was an improvement. Successful pilots share three qualities: credibility, replicability and feasibility.
For managers seeking to abandon follow-the-pack IT investment, the author offers the example of Inditex Group, a clothing manufacturer in northwestern Spain, best known for its Zara stores. Inditex demonstrates that a company can select, adopt and leverage IT while spending very little on it. He lays out five general principles that underlie Inditex”s remarkable success with targeted technology spending.
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