Are We There Yet? Musings from a Corporate Marketer
by Don Burns

Husband, father, marketer, former barista, lover of all things Apple. Don is available to help you with your marketing, advertising, and strategic planning needs.

You’ve probably experienced it many times. You spend weeks or months praying, thinking, and strategizing about the next great idea. Then you communicate the plan to your staff, core volunteers, and congregation. Then all the work goes into bringing the idea into a reality. However, when it’s over the results are not what you expected. I can feel your pain. You ask yourself questions like, “Where are the laborers?” and “What were they thinking?” You were so excited about this project and did your part to inspire the team, appropriate the resources and announce it from the pulpit. What happened? You expected more people in attendance, more salvations, more participation, and more excitement.

There is one inherently dangerous word in the list of expectations above. “More.” We all like “more,” right? We want more respect, more followers on Twitter, more church members and more money. As I write this article, I want more coffee. The problem with “more” is it isn’t clear. “More” is too vague for successful project management. As leaders we must be specific.

A few years ago my wife and I led a group of 70 singles from our church to Breckenridge, Colorado for a three-day ski trip. We had a blast. I remember telling one of the guys on the trip to meet me at the base of the mountain one day. He never showed up. That night I was giving him a hard time for not being at the right place at the right time, he got a bit upset and said he was there and couldn’t find me. He even told me the trails he took to get to the base of the mountain. That’s when I realized we were at the base of the mountain at the same time, however we were both at the base of different mountains. I assumed he would meet me at the base of Peak 9 and he was at the base of Peak 8. He did what he was supposed to do, but I had not communicated clearly enough for him to meet my expectations.

As leaders we must set people up for success. If your team is wondering if they are successful or not, there is a problem. When clear goals are in place, there is never a question of success or failure. At the company I work for, we continually look at our progress. Corporate goals are set each year and from those goals each team leader is assigned a series of tasks that help the company meet the desired results. We have monthly “sync up” meetings to measure progress and adjust our efforts if necessary to ensure we are on track to meet our goals. When the numbers come in, we know immediately if we have been successful or not. We don’t sit around and wonder what the executive leaders will think about the results. We already know what they expect and either meet those expectations and reap the rewards, or we don’t and begin to freshen up our resume.

I’ve heard it said that a “wish” is a goal that hasn’t been written down. If you haven’t seen the results you are looking for, it’s time to stop wishing and time to start setting goals and attaining them. Here is a step-by-step process for you to set, communicate, measure, and analyze the goals for your project.

1. Determine the Goal: Before you discuss the idea with your team begin to ask yourself, “What is the desired outcome?”

When setting goals use the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting.

S. Specific

M. Measurable

A. Attainable

R. Relevant

T. Timely

Specific—Specific goals are more likely to be accomplished than unclear or vague goals.

Questions to help set specific goals could include:

Who: Who is the target audience or who is involved?

What: What is the desired outcome?

Where: Where do you want to hold the event or sell the product?

When: Establish a time frame.

Which: Identify requirements and resource constraints.

Why: Give the specific reason, purpose or benefit of accomplishing the goal.

EXAMPLE:  A general goal would be, “launch a second Sunday morning service.” A specific goal would say, “In order to reach 200 more in weekly attendance, we will launch a second Sunday morning service on October 11, 2009.”

Measurable—You must establish items for measuring progress toward reaching the goal. By measuring progress, the team will stay on track, reach your targets, stay on budget and experience success. Questions to ask to determine if a goal is measurable typically begin with the word “How.” How much? How many? How quick? How long? By setting measureable goals your team will know if they have hit the target.

Attainable—Goals must be realistic and attainable by the people on your team.  The best goals require people to stretch out of their comfort zone but not so far that they give up. Goals that are set too high or too low will either be ignored or used as an excuse.

Relevant—In order for a goal to be relevant it must help reach your organization’s vision and mission. A goal that does not do this is probably a waste of time. Ask yourself, “Are we doing this for the right reasons?” Sometimes organizations do things only because they have always done them. How many events, projects, and programs does your organization have that are dying? Are they still relevant?

Timely—A goal should be set with a specific time frame. When will it occur? How long will it last? When will we release it?

2.   Communicate the Goal: Gather the team together and describe the project, idea, or event. Discuss the S.M.A.R.T. goals. Put the goals in writing so everything is clearly communicated. Assign responsibilities and set the schedule for synch-up meetings. It is also important to have open dialogue with the team during the execution of the project. Use technology to keep everyone in the loop of communication.

3.   Measure the Results: Be sure to build into the plan a vehicle that will allow you to measure results. It is important that the vehicle gives you the information needed to reach the goal. For example, if the goal is related to hosting an event that involves reaching into your neighborhood and making connections with the neighbors, you may lean towards a vehicle that captures names, addresses and ages instead of a simple head count. It will allow you to see how many in attendance are actually in your target market.

4.   Analyze and Adjust: Part of the schedule should include a debrief meeting. At the meeting it is critical to evaluate the project or event and determine if the goals were met. This is the best time to learn from your successes and failures. It will help your team feel valuable and it creates some accountability. It is important to adjust future goals based on what you have learned from the process.

Your time is limited and your workload is heavy. By putting this simple process in place you will build up a team that will require less of your involvement in the execution of plans and goals. Team members that feel empowered will take ownership and responsibility in helping reach your organization’s vision and mission.

Instead of everyone wondering and asking, “Are we there yet?” Put together plans and goals that allow them to know exactly where they are.