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Look Up: How Corporate Strategy Informs Department & Individual Goals

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It’s annual review time for one of my clients. This got me thinking about the top-down impact of corporate strategy. It impacts everything yet you’d be surprised how many managers are not thinking about their employees’ goals in light of the corporate strategy. They don’t connect the dots from employee and individual contributor goals to departmental and company goals and strategy.

Like a lot of strategists, I constantly beat the drum of the importance of strategy. Having one. Documenting it. Revisiting it. So, yes, here I go again.

Some companies do annual reviews at the end of the year. Some do it annually on the date  of hire. My personal prefernce is for quarterly reviews. They are more effective in reinforcing positive behaviors at the indivdiual level and assessing progress and course correction at all levels.

Strategy and Goal Setting

When you ask your department executives and managers to set their strategy and goals for the year, where do they start? I suggest they “look up.” As the head of a functional department – marketing, sales, consulting, finance, product management, IT or any other department –  they need to know what the company wants to achieve before they can break down what their contribution will be and how their department will get there.

Likewise, employees need to understand what the departmental goals are to know what their individual performance goals need to be. How is their contribution going to help get the department where it needs to go? That can only be determined if they know where the department wants to go.

Individuals look to department strategy and goals and the departments look to corporate strategy and goals. I’ve seen many companies struggle with this – they’re demanding goals be drawn up by employees and department heads but with no corporate strategic plan in place.

To get your employees and company facing and marching to the same place, make sure you’re providing the directions.

Improve Focus, Improve Execution

With a strategy in place, it makes focusing easier. When you have defined your corporate goals and strategy, you check whatever you’re doing against your strategy. If it matches, you’re golden. If it doesn’t, stop and ask yourself why you’re working on it (or directing someone to work on it).

When new business opportunities arise – possible partnerships or new product ideas – check it against your strategy. If it matches, you’re golden. If it doesn’t, say no and move on.

There are millions of possibilities and good ideas, but you can’t execute them all at the same time. Focus on chasing only one rabbit at at time. Catch the rabbit, then focus on the next one. If you’re trying to chase two rabbits, you increase your risk of not executing well. You may succeed, but it will take you longer and cost you more. Being nimble doesn’t mean saying yes to everything. Be smart first. Look up. Check your strategy.