It is more often than not that one will find activity based approach to work than target based approach at workplaces. It will not be rare for managers to hear from their people that they did what they were expected to do and if results are not there, then it is not their problem.
This “activity based approach” mindset is very dangerous. It cripples a person and makes a functioning brain dead. Slowly and steadily it cripples an organization. But how do you make the journey from one mindset to another? In-fact even before we answer that question, we need to ask – Is the shift important at all?
Though for some answer to the last question is obvious, but let me put forward my thoughts.
- Target based approach makes you accountable just like Karn whereas Activity based Approach only makes you responsible aka Draupadi. More on Draupadi and Karn here.
- Target based approach makes you a solutions manager whereby you would try out each and every solution possible to meet the targets. Agreed this spirit of meeting the targets by any way possible needs to be regulated to make sure no unethical practices are being followed.
Now how to let your people make the shift from one end to the other keeping in mind that this journey of transformation is very painful and frustrating. So here are some of the ideas -
- Communicate Clearly the targets – As cliche as it may sound but communication holds the key. The transformation journey begins with manager communicating all the targets very clearly to his/her people through formal channels. Once targets are shared with people, discuss them out with them; provide rationale behind the numbers; and take their buy in on the numbers. My experience says that if this process is done objectively and rationally, more often than not, people would agree to the targets given to them.
- Reinforce the importance of meeting the targets: Even though targets would have been mutually agreed upon by this step, it is difficult that an activity based mindset will be aligned with target based approach all the time. And if this alignment is not there all the time, then results would not come out. Therefore for thoughts alignment, it is imperative that manager reinforces the importance of meeting those targets. But having said that, care must be taken by the manager that it should not become over the board otherwise his/her people will feel stifled.
- Empower them: Anyone will be able to work positively towards the targets only if they feel empowered; empowered to make their decisions, empowered to think creatively, empowered to make mistakes and learn. This empowerment need not be in reality but in feelings. And it is here where a manager needs to work like a magician. He/She should make his/her people realize their importance which in turn will make them feel empowered. The manager should also be patient enough like a parent to allow his/her people to fall and rise again all by themselves. One will be highly amazed to see outputs when people feel empowered.
- Manager to work like a shared resource: When people’s mindset is activity based, thinking of new ways to work positively towards targets become difficult; their minds are not wired like that. In that scenario how does a manager ensure that he/she creates a company of equals? How does he/she ensure that his/her people are motivated enough to work for their targets? The manager can target this problem by allowing himself/herself to be treated like a shared resource. By being a shared resource, he/she would help his/her people reach their targets. He/she would allow his/her expertise to be exploited by his/her people. By this, people would not be burdened by targets yet will get conditioned to handle them.
I am employing all the above mentioned strategies at my workplace (consumer internet company) to change the mindset. The work is still WIP but I am extremely hopeful that results would be great.
Feel free to share any other idea to make this transformational shift.