By the way…what’s the goal ?

Summary : no project is worth without a clearly defined goal. Obvious…but not that much as we can see so many how many “social” and 2.0 projects have no goals except their own existence that often happens apart from the rest of the organization. Without having a goal in mind when designing the program and working on adoption at an individual level, the huge bureaucracy machine that have no other goal than existing regardless to any mission and from the market and customers is here to stay.

As I wrote recently, one of the things I appreciated in the Real Story report on social networking and collaboration solutions was the distinction made between two concepts many still consider being the same thing. Which is wrong. They definine collaboration by working together in the pursuit of a business goal and networking by interactions out of the pursuit of a business goal.

Reality is, of course, not that Manichean : in many cases networking supports collaboration and inherits his goal. But that’s true that one can networked without goal, what is not true for collaboration. That’s even so true that a consensus is forming on the fact that social activities should derive from business activities (processes, collaboration etc.), so that the link between applications supporting each should be strengthened. But facts are here  : it’s easier for anyone to collaborate in the context of his business tool than to move to a networking solution and go back to business tools once he finds what he needs. That’s still the famous “what’s in for me” principle that makes that, when no clear goal exists, average users find few interest in social networking.

The concept of goal is also important for another reason. Until now, in the “industrial” model, what was important to employees were tasks. Goal was defined by other people as well as how to achieve it. The only thing employees had to do was to care about a very small part of a process without knowing anything about the rest. Today, in a fast-moving environment, it’s getting more difficult to define things beforehand so employees need a framework to organize information and tasks to achieve their mission. In this context goal is key to shape their work environment and design their work. That’s not easy because old habits die hard and moving from task assignment to empowerment toward a global goal is a tremendous change in work organization. As for the work environment, it’s everything but goal oriented.

Last, among the brightest things I’ve heard this year, I remember John Hagel at the Social Business in Milan saying “the first thing you need do know when your start a social business project is which business indicator you want to impact”. We’re obviously not talking about the tool’s internal indicators but the indicators that should be impacted by the use of the platform. The famous KPIs. Here too, defining the key indicators that matter instead of measuring everything measurable and collapse under tons of useless information requires to know precisely what the goal is.

Why ? Because all organizations and employees should have a clear answer if being asked “what does your project contributes to”, one less vague than sharing, collaborating and increasing engagement which are only means. That’s the reason why many of these projects stay (and sometimes die) in their bubble without impacting the performance of the organization. That’s why many employees don’t see the link between the social activities they’re  asked to do and their mission, neither how their own missions is linked to others’, what would help help understand that when they help others they help themselves. That’s the reason why organizations keep on  implementing performance measurement systems that people are rewarded for behaviors that are the opposite of those that are being promoted.

No project should start without having clearly stated what was the pursued goal, how the project will contribute to it, what will be the relevant  indicators and all the consequences drawn regarding to the organization.

Tomorrow’s enterprise may be social, 2.0 or I don’t know what new word will be coined in a near future. But what is sure : any of its decisions, projects, any tool and operating model will have to be goal-oriented. If not, businesses will stay the huge bureaucratic machines they’ve been for ages, using most of their energy to self-maintain rather to move forward, adapt and innovate.

So the next time you’ll have a couple of minutes on your own, ask yourself what the goal of your company, the goal of each employee, check if they’re aligned employees could achieve theirs without having to find against the machine that’s supposed to support them. This is the only way to consider social and execution jointly. If not, social will keep on wandering in the workplace, in search for goals, having a single purpose: stay alive, generate its own activity. Let’s call it social bureaucracy if you want…but that’s still bureaucracy.




Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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