Do “business goals” really work?

February 27th, 2017

Business goals

We all know businesses need goals and targets; what most of them have are figures based on estimates, guesstimates, unchecked assumptions, wish lists, dreams and something called “experience”, in order to create budgets. These goals and targets are then cascaded / apportioned across the business, through teams and to individuals, so that everyone has a personal target.

Yet, how many of these goals and targets encourage individuals to really work together in teams for the benefit of the business as a whole as opposed to encouraging silo-behaviour and competition within the business? By way of example, let’s take a “typical” senior-level client-service person in a multi-disciplinary professional services firm. Their key target will be to deliver a certain amount of client work, of which a percentage has to be won each year. Ignoring the limitations of timesheet systems and recoverability percentages for the moment, they are measured on their billable hours and that of the people who work for them.

What is the impact?

When they sell their services to a client, it’s in their interests to sell their own services, they have little stake in selling the services of other disciplines as they aren’t directly rewarded on this. Of course, the reward is indirect – as the business grows, earnings grow, profits grow, salaries and bonuses grow. So, why don’t they reward people for bringing in work to other disciplines? It seems it’s just too difficult and there’s an underlying fear that it may encourage a bit too much of a “sales” atmosphere. Most professional firms are still somewhat allergic to the terms “sales” and “customers”. Many specialists will also say that they don’t know enough about the other services the firm provides, in order to sell them to a potential customer. In practice, they don’t need to understand a lot about each others’ services; however, they need to know some key headlines and they need to know each other as people, then able to introduce them.

How does this translate to real life?

  • There was the time client service teams from two different offices of the same firm turned up to pitch work to a new client, who let them both turn up before (politely) telling them to go away!
  • Or the time one department went out of its way to win a small piece of work, which prevented another specialist department from pitching for a far more lucrative piece of work as it was a conflict of interest.

Both of these situations could have been avoided if they had shared information properly across the business and encouraged client service teams and departments to work together more.

What can you do?

If you work in a firm which offers a number of services, find out about the other service lines and the people within them. Talk to each other about the common elements and the key things you each offer to your clients.

As a team, look at your targets and those of the individuals within the team and open this discussion out across the business. Work out where you might be competing internally or have targets which conflict with each other. This is a far bigger issues and will take longer to resolve. Yet, many of you will have ideas on how you would like to be rewarded for bringing in work for other departments or working with them to deliver these services when they don’t neatly fall into one department.

How we help

We can provide targeted programmes to:

  • build cross-departmental teamwork and selling skills
  • improve appraisal and target-setting skills

Contact Sue if you’d like to discuss this and what would work for your business.

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