Motivating Teams with Detailed Objectives

Mobilizing a team to work collaboratively towards a goal requires that they understand what it is they are working to do. By not understanding the details in advance, you may not end up exactly where you hoped you’d be. ....

Motivating Teams with Detailed Objectives

Have you ever tried to reach a destination without knowing exactly where it was you were trying to get to? You might have a general idea …. but the details are a tad murky.

Things might work out exactly as you hope....But then again, they might not.

Let’s say you have a few extra days to take off from work and decide to relax on a beach for a long weekend. You’re thinking California, Florida, Mexico, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Barbados …. You’re starting to get excited. You request the time off and start thinking of all the fun and relaxing things you’ll do. Maybe you’ll finally try surfing!

The plan is to head to the airport on Thursday and buy a ticket to the first warm destination beach city flight you see. Since it’s only for a few days, you’ll look for a direct flight. While you wait to board you’ll figure out the hotel and ground transportation details. You can’t contain your excitement. The location is going to be somewhere exotic with sunshine and white sand for as far as you can see. You tell everyone that you are going to relax in the sun while sipping on umbrella drinks. You’re pumped. This is going to be such a great adventure.

Finally, when the day arrives, you pack up your suitcase with beachwear and head to the nearest airport. Now …while it is possible to luck out by catching the first flight out and ending up somewhere fabulous …. chances are you’ll end up somewhere other than the tropical locale that you imagined. You could always hang out at the airport for a while - waiting for the right destination. (Although that would cut into your relaxation time ….) By not understanding the details in advance, you may not end up exactly where you hoped you’d be. You might experience a bit more anxiety and stress than usual. And chances are you will pay a lot more for your quick getaway than if you had planned. Is there any chance you’ll still be able to try surfing? Of course, there is …. but there’s also a chance that you end up in a coastal location with rocky shores, no waves, and few amenities.

Define and communicate the detailed objectives.

If this sounds like a terrible idea - and one that pretty much no one would embark upon. Now change the context.  Ask yourself if a similar approach has ever been taken with projects or initiatives in your organization? Are detailed objectives always defined and communicated? Are they communicated in a way that resonates with individuals and teams? Has there ever been an instance when a bit of ambiguity crept in? Are there initiatives that were communicated using a 'one size fits all' message?

To be successful, it’s important to define and communicate both the goal and the detailed outcome objectives.... For each of the people that are going to work towards the goal.

If specifics are not known and well understood, you introduce unnecessary risk to the initiative. There is a chance that the team will achieve the desired outcome and meet all expectations. There’s also a chance that things take a LOT longer than anticipated, cost more than anyone intended to spend, and don’t quite hit the mark when it’s all over. Or worse yet, that some stakeholders resist the plan altogether.

Anytime individuals take part in an activity involving change - details are critical. This is true for technical changes, process changes, and general behavioral changes. Knowing the end goal and vision is not enough. Why are details so important? To gain momentum and to motivate teams.

What’s In It for Me?

You’ve no doubt heard that the age-old question 'what's in it for me' drives many human behaviors and decisions. For most people working in healthcare, what’s in it for them is the feeling that they are making a difference in the lives of patients they serve. About work in general, most are also looking for a steady paycheck and sense of personal accomplishment. With a new project or initiative, the first two are easy.

The feeling of making a difference in the patients they serve is part of the environment. Achieving project/initiative goals often enhances the feeling. Following employment guidelines and putting forth a general effort at work usually takes care of the paycheck.  So what about the personal accomplishment piece?

To feel a sense of triumph, there needs to be something to achieve - a measurable objective. It’s really hard to say “I’m so proud of myself, I did it!” ….. if you have no idea what it is. Mobilizing a team to work collaboratively towards a goal requires that they understand what it is they are working to do.

How detailed do the objectives need to be?

It’s rare that ‘one size fits all’ objectives will work for some of the complex changes taking place in healthcare.  A more effective approach is to define objectives for each of the teams that will play a part in realizing the outcome. So what type of details do they need to know? The following list of questions is a good place to start.

  1. What is the goal of the initiative?
  2. Why does the organization want to do this?
  3. What happens if the goal is not achieved?
  4. What measurements will determine success?
  5. What objectives does the team/individual need to achieve as part of this?
  6. How do those objectives relate to the larger goal?
  7. What is the timeframe for accomplishing each of the objectives?
  8. What resources will be available to the team?
  9. How will each individual and each team report progress?
  10. Who do they talk to for questions/concerns?

By providing details relevant to each individual/team, the likelihood of success should increase. Understanding what the goal is, the reason behind it, and how each individual will contribute - can be incredibly motivating. Working towards a goal and the feeling of accomplishment when its achieved makes people happy.

Motivated and happy teams can achieve great things.

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." - Andrew Carnegie