Strengthening goals and objectives with cross-functional peer reviews

The yearly goals and objectives (G&O) process in most organizations is often perceived by staff as a mundane HR activity required solely to support year-end performance appraisals. Here’s my thoughts as to how directors and managers can strengthen the process with cross-functional peer reviews.

Climbers by Jaroslav Kuba is licensed under Creative Commons | Attribution 2.0 Generic

In my experience, the goals and objectives process is typically structured and communicated as a vertically-siloed exercise held between a supervisor and employee. Staff are asked to create tactical objectives to help achieve broader goals that cascade down from executives within a single department like I.T. or Finance.

But let’s be honest—objectives either don’t cascade down from the top as planned, or they’re developed the same time junior staff are required to submit their own objectives into the performance management system like Trakstar or SuccessFactors. As a result, staff secretly view the process as a tedious, necessary evil that falls to the bottom of everyone’s to-do list.

Goals and Objectives – a free planning and scheduling opportunity!

Those with a few years under their belt working in a medium to large organization already know first-hand that goals and objectives vary greatly across functions within the same department, not to mention cross-departments. Within Information Technology, for example, the goals and objectives of the Project Management Office will differ from those of Infrastructure, Security, etc.

I’ve experienced that most directors and managers don’t know—or don’t ask—about the goals and objectives of their peers. I think here lies the problem. Within organizations exist hundreds of mini roadmaps, with each visible to only one employee with his/her direct supervisor. How did it get this way? Staff blindly followed the HR-communicated process necessary to “tick the box” without feeling empowered to take a step back and consider this a planning and scheduling opportunity through cross-functional peer reviews.

Think about your own experience in the goals and objectives process. You probably agree:

  • The success of your G&O are highly dependent on assistance from your peers
  • You don’t anticipate 25% of your time in Q3 assisting someone else’s initiative
  • You push back on your peers as the timing of their priorities contradict with yours

So what can be done to change the perceived value of the yearly goals and objectives process? Speak with colleagues who work outside of your silo. If you’re in I.T., ask your Finance peers whether they envision needing a chunk of your time this year for one of their initiatives.  You now have content to round out your objectives and have identified appropriate start dates for said objectives!

A cross-functional peer review doesn’t have to be formal. Thirty-minute discussions among one’s top-three peers will go a long way in helping achieve one’s own goals and objectives.