How We Set Goals at Union Street Media
One of my favorite things about Union Street Media is how we set goals.
Like most companies, we use goals to keep everyone aligned and focused on the most important work. Goals also help us to look back and evaluate whether the prior year was successful. We try to define annual goals that are aspirational – both lofty and inspiring.
What’s different about Union Street Media is how we break these annual goals into smaller ones, every three months. If you’ve ever been part of a quarterly planning process, you’re probably picturing leaders emerging from a board room and bestowing their wisdom in the form of quarterly goals, but that’s not us. We flip the whole process upside down and set goals as a single, unified team.
We believe the best way to set goals is to bring the decision making as close as possible to where the information is, which many times is with the teams and individuals that make up our company. If we need a complex new feature or piece of software built, who better to create the plan than the product teams that are building it?
At Union Street Media, a typical quarterly planning meeting starts with a series of short brainstorming sessions. Each department identifies one or two things they think need to get done that quarter to help us toward our annual goals. Then the fun begins: each team stands before the company and advocates passionately for their proposed goals. I am always impressed by the thought and creativity teams put into their goals. It makes me proud of the team we have at Union Street Media.
As you might expect, there is always more work proposed than we can possibly get done in a quarter, and that is where the leadership team helps. Leaders help by prioritizing the proposed goals based on the larger business context and our annual objectives. Once the quarter begins, teams work cross-functionally toward our shared objectives until the next quarterly planning session and we begin the process over again.
We often hear feedback from new employees that our planning process is uncomfortable at first and that they’ve never had this much say in what work gets done. We love that kind of feedback!
I enjoy mountain biking in my spare time and on the trail we have a saying: if you’re not falling, you’re not trying. At Union Street Media we approach goals the same way. We’re bound to make mistakes and fall off the bike from time to time, that’s just learning. We push ourselves hard to achieve more which inspires us to try and become better, more transparent and to always push decision making closest to where it should be.