In many organizations, there’s too much talk about setting goals and not enough doing it. Everybody needs to clearly understand the overall goal, and what they can do to help move forward with that goal. And let's be clear... the overarching goal is to allow for my early retirement at a gorgeous beach on some Caribbean island. So that implies a long term vision for the company, the product, the team, and the individual team members. That's a lot, and I have to admit that while being perfect at this is at the top of my goal list... I haven’t hit perfection yet. However, there are some things I believe really work.
Get engaged with the various goals at every level. I am lucky enough to work at a company where I can talk to the CEO any time to pitch an idea or get feedback. And so can anyone else in the company. No guarantee that it will be accepted/implemented, but it's a good start (that's what I like about small companies).
Goals change on all levels all the time, and it is hard to balance one layer of goals against the other. For the product, fixing this list of nasty issues is the best, yet the engineer that would be best suited for that has been in maintenance mode forever and really needs a break. What to do, what to do... Well, I found that personal interaction works pretty well, again with the result of a agreed upon goal. Something along the line of "I know you don't want to fix another Windows device driver bug, so we will make sure that you get time to train your colleague on this, so next time you are not in the hot seat."
So how to communicate goals efficiently? Well, I am still struggling with that one at times (I know I can do better). There is of course the traditional team meeting, there are five minute standup meetings, there is e-mail, the wiki, personal conversation (I hope I haven’t missed an obvious one). Different methods work better with different people, so I am trying to do all of them as appropriate. Kind of a squishy answer, which really offends my sense for black and white answers, but that's all I have.
So what goals do we have at CloudBees and my team?
We want to make our customers successful.
We want to have fun doing it, or at least see the huge value in happy customers when it is not a lot of fun.
We want to give team members a chance to explore new areas (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not... just kidding). We do have a policy that engineers can have a day each month to explore topics/interests at their own leisure that are not directly job related. This gets their minds thinking in new and creative directions, and helps them avoid getting bogged down in old and frustrating issues.
And let's not for get my early retirement... I may have mentioned that.
Read the other parts of the series here: