How shared goals can help your company succeed
Reading time: about 7 min
As a team leader or product manager, your big goal is to create a successful product—one that is useful to customers and provides an exceptional user experience. But to create a successful product you have to create a successful team by finding ways to engage and motivate different people in different functions throughout the process. Balancing the varying interests and aims of your employees and stakeholders can be tricky, especially if you're not in a position to offer them traditional incentives like raises or promotions.
The solution? Motivate your team by uniting them behind a shared vision and giving them the trust and tools to achieve it by creating shared goals.
What are shared goals?
According to Roman Pichler, product management expert, shared goals are "goals that people support, and that help you progress your product." Rather than the team leader creating a top-down, unilateral product strategy or campaign goal and micro-managing people on the way to achieving it, shared goals bring together everyone involved in creating the product to create a process that will best allow them to do that.
Why shared goals are important
Shared goals harness the combined power of each person's perspective, needs, and expertise to create a clear and mutual path toward the goal. Shared goals allow you to start with buy-in from all stakeholders, helping teams to feel engaged and aligned from the beginning.
Shared goals focus on joint outcomes while allowing for autonomy and individual ownership. This means that different teams and individuals can tackle their aspect of product development in a way that makes the most sense to them but still allows the broader team to trust that everyone is working toward a clear and common goal. It also means that each person understands the meaning of their work and how it fits into the team's broader vision, helping everyone know how their work impacts the project.
Shared goals are versatile, helping everyone from developers to stakeholders to determine what work needs to be done across functions. Shared goals also help ensure both product managers and product owners can motivate people on different sides of the development table in an inspiring and effective way. Sometimes known as cascading goals, shared goals grow out of a company's broad vision and philosophy and move downward, ensuring alignment at each level.
How to establish shared goals
Set shared goals at every level
Shared goals must be prioritized at every level of the company's mission, from its broad vision statement to the individual tasks an employee must work on to improve a product. Since shared goals cascade, it’s best to start creating shared goals at the top and work your way down, focusing first on the broad mission of the company. This is the time to dream big, articulating the values that inspired people to start the organization or create the product in the first place. Mission-level shared goals identify a problem that needs to be solved and show the distinct way you and your company want to solve it. Keep this shared goal broad and aspirational. And remember, just because it's a goal that starts at the top doesn't mean it's top-down. Invite employees and stakeholders at every level to work together on the mission. You'll get better ideas with more people, and everyone will be united and clear on the goal from the beginning.
After you've identified your mission, you can work your way down to the next level by identifying the strategic goals that will allow you to meet your big objectives. Articulate user and business goals that show the solutions your organization can offer to the problem you've identified in your mission. It's a value proposition that helps you achieve your mission.
Next, identify product goals. These goals fit into the broader strategy of the business goals but are more tactical. For example, they help team leaders and stakeholders take concrete steps towards a bigger goal. They identify specific solutions to the problem—such as an upgrade to a product that will better address company objectives and customer concerns.
Finally, team leaders and managers should work with their individual team members to help them make daily, weekly, and quarterly goals that help them achieve the product goal and get closer to achieving the business goal and fulfilling the company mission.
This process takes time and energy, but when done right it leads to alignment at every level of the company. Shared goals help people see how their work helps achieve company objectives.
Involve the right team members in goal-setting
Creating shared goals using a process that involves everyone can be daunting. When trying to make common goals, leaders have to step away from thinking only about who makes the goals and how to make the goals. This means deciding what decisions need to be made, who needs to be in the room making them—and when.
Stakeholders and development team members
When determining who to involve in various decision-making processes, it's essential to decide which decisions and goals involve stakeholders, the development team, and which involve both. When it comes to defining the mission for your product, it's important to get feedback from all parties.
Roman Pichler recommends bringing stakeholders and the development team together for a strategizing workshop where they can cohere around a big, inspiring vision and articulate the business goals and steps required to achieve it. After that, you can organize what Pichler calls "road-mapping workshops," where both stakeholders and team members can create specific, clear product goals and benchmarks that will feed into the business goals. Finally, you can sit down with individual team members to create goals that align with the product strategy.
At this point, it's all about maintenance and adaptation. Product managers should hold regular meetings to check how the goals are working, recalibrate strategy and implementation, and receive feedback from stakeholders and employees.
After this, stakeholders and development team members should split into different functions. The stakeholders and product owners can serve a feedback function, reviewing what the development team is doing and helping them refine their approach. Meanwhile, the development team can meet regularly to identify sprint goals, meeting immediate, targeted goals that move them toward bigger objectives.
How to get buy-in at every level
There are two broad ways to bring teams and shareholders together to create shared goals. One is to go big, and one is to start small.
Going big entails bringing together people from many different teams, functions, and points of view to create mission-, business-, and product-level goals. This approach works well for building excitement and explicit consensus. It helps people feel heard at every level of the company and—since it all happens in one place—leaves people with a clear sense of shared purpose and the role they will play in achieving goals.
The downsides? Achieving consensus in a big group can be difficult. Sometimes the sheer numbers can make decision-making unwieldy. At other times, even the most aligned teams can end up disagreeing on a shared goal, leading to resentment, frustration, and a lack of clarity among participants. Product managers and owners can anticipate and resolve some of these issues by creating a clear but flexible meeting agenda that guides people toward decisions but leaves time for discussion and selecting a facilitator who has skill and experience in managing large groups and complex decision-making processes.
The other alternative is to work from the bottom up, meeting one-on-one with team members to gather their ideas, questions, and opinions, then bringing this to a smaller group of leaders who can bring all the input into a cohesive whole. This strategy cuts down on long, protracted disagreements between many different people, and it helps each team member feel listened to and respected. But there are drawbacks. It takes time to meet with so many people individually, and if people don't see their very ideas reflected in the final set of shared goals, they might lack the motivation to engage with the plan. Creating shared goals in a piecemeal way, with final decisions made at the top, might detract from the shared sense of purpose that comes from a meeting where everyone is present for the whole process.
Either way, leaders should remember that their job is to solicit input and reflect the needs and opinions of the group. Product managers should still use their wisdom and expertise to help shape individuals' vision into a process that matches the company's goals.
Shared goals can help your teams work with purpose and stay aligned as you work toward your business objectives. If you'd like to create shared goals for your team, consider using the Product Vision Board created by Roman Pichler to work through your product vision, strategy, and objectives.
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