Strategic goal planning and management are no longer a linear journey

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: Microsoft Tech Community - Latest Blogs - .

In past roles, I spent hundreds of hours with colleagues developing our annual strategic plan. We created committees, subcommittees, and teams to identify priorities and initiatives grounded to the organization’s mission and vision. We would ambitiously set our goals for the year and even identify success metrics. While intentions were good, our strategic outcomes always fell short.


Why? This conventional approach took too long, lacked accountability and the rigid planning cycle inhibited our ability to adapt to changing organization needs and shifting priorities. We got stuck in the “set and forget” cycle of setting goals at the beginning of the year and never knowing if our everyday activities at the individual contributor and team levels even rolled up to those institutional goals.


At Microsoft we recognize a defined set of corporate goals not only instills a sense of purpose, accountability, and agility but also helps companies mitigate uncertainty.


How do we escape the organizational goal-setting rut?


In today’s environment when organizations are required to operate faster and more efficiently, having an adaptable goal planning and management processes are essential. Microsoft Viva Goals is a goal management solution that helps ease goal planning and management. Viva Goals helps companies escape the goal-setting rut with capabilities to communicate goals across the organization, measure progress, and realign priorities as needed.


CAI, a global consulting firm, shared how Microsoft Viva Goals helped boost their business agility and enable operational alignment by streamlining its goal planning and management processes. Historically CAI relied on disparate Excel spreadsheets, making it difficult to align strategies across the company. Viva Goals provided them with one centrally managed solution that readily supported an adaptable goal setting strategy. With Viva Goals, CAI was able to move away from Excel spreadsheets and a conventional, linear approach.


"We don't create a traditional business plan now. We use Viva Goals with our customer-facing project teams to manage progress, align strategy, and create accountability to high-level objectives."

- Richard Tree: Chief Operating Officer, CAI


Today they are successfully setting business goals, objectives and key results (OKRs) and aligning teams to organizational priorities while at the same time delivering consistent and high-quality services to their customers. They are able to stay agile and responsive to their customers’ needs by modernizing their approach to goal setting.


Read more about CAI’s Viva Goals journey to learn how they were able to boost business agility and operational alignment by adoption an OKR framework.


Bridging the gap between goal setting strategy and execution


Another issue companies face in their goal setting journey is a disconnect between strategy and execution. Commonly, corporate goals are set at the leadership level and not communicated to business units and teams within a company. This makes it hard for individuals to know if their work is impacting the company’s bottom line.


To bridge this gap and help break the “set and forget” cycle, Viva Goals enables leaders to send regular updates across the organization, teams, and even individual views. With better transparency, internal teams are able to align priorities so they can achieve results together.


Tamara blog_Viva Goals SS .png


Microsoft customer, OC Tanner, discussed their journey from goal setting strategy to successful execution with Viva Goals. Regarded as a manufacturing leader and pioneer of the employee recognition industry, they realized that to maintain their leadership position, they needed clear and concise goals communicated across the organization. They chose Viva Goals to help them focus on the most critical priorities.


"Viva Goals helps us keep OKRs established and aligned for the appropriate planning periods and creates visibility across the entire team."

- Jason Andersen: Vice President of Product, O.C. Tanner


Today OC Tanner incorporates OKRs into all planning and collaborative processes. Viva Goals also plays a key role in their semiannual and quarterly planning processes, which have helped to align everyone on their tasks and ensure their work is laddering up to the big picture. In short, OC Tanner successfully bridged the gap between strategy and execution with Viva Goals.


Read more about how OC Tanner was able to create “unity in focus” with
Viva Goals.


Adapting a continuous goal-management framework


Consistent with my own planning experience described in the introduction, many organizations find goal setting arduous. To help better understand the goal setting challenges, Microsoft commissioned a study by Forrester Consulting, 2023 State Of Goal Setting Report.


One of the findings Forrester reported was that although goal setting provides structure and a common vision, the lack of organization wide visibility to corporate goals can hinder teams from meeting their goals. In addition, Forrester also reported that company leaders who regularly revisit and set goals to align with the rhythm of business, were not doing so at other levels of the organization. This also results in employees feeling disconnected and unmotivated with the goal setting process.


At Microsoft, we believe a continuous goal-setting planning lifecycle is an important component to success. The continuous planning cycle involves shorter planning cycles, ability to measure and report progress, analyze performance using scenario-based models, adjust priorities as needed, and repeat for the next evaluation cycle. This approach allows companies to make necessary adjustments to meet their corporate goals and help keep everyone focused on the right work.


The continuous planning lifecycle V2.jpg


Viva Goals provides companies with the tools to define agile processes and framework for planning, measuring, analyzing and adjusting priorities as needed. With the ability to connect to the project management and data tools employees use regularly, such as Azure Dev Ops, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Planner and Power BI, Viva Goals can provide visibility into how progress on daily work is impacting goals.


Using next generation AI from Copilot, Viva Goals helps power organizations to streamline the entire goal management process from start to finish. Whether it be quarterly or monthly planning cycles, Viva Goals enables companies to readily measure, analyze and adjust goals on a regular basis. For more information on how Viva Goals supports continuous planning lifecycle, watch Viva Goals video.


Aligning OKRs across the organization leads to stronger engagement and motivation


In July 2023 we hosted a Viva Goals webinar, "Where are we going?": How to chart your Viva Goals journey, where we asked more than 100 participants what their biggest goal setting challenge was. Not surprisingly, alignment was the top answer.


Tamara blog_Wordbloud black.png

Sample responses from participants in our July 2023 webinar


In our experience it’s not just getting alignment at the onset of the goal setting process, it’s also maintaining alignment across the organization. Microsoft customer, Svea Solar, relies on Viva Goals to help employees connect to the company’s founding purpose from the moment they are hired.


"We use Viva Goals to demystify what's important for each function and get people up to speed faster."

- Wilhelm Kugelberg: Strategy & Business Development Manager, Svea Solar


Sharing corporate goals provides new hires understand with what they need to do and, more importantly, why their work is important. Svea Solar quickly noticed that aligning employees on OKRs from the moment they are hired, led to stronger engagement and motivation to focus on the right things.


Consistent with Svea Solar’s experience, at Microsoft we also recommend a top-down alignment for stronger impact. Just as important is cross-functional alignment within and across groups to help reduce redundancies as well as leverage the power of meaningful collaboration to achieve operational excellence.


Read more about how Viva Goals helped Svea Solar achieve more and drive efficiency by defining distinct goals.


Viva Goals empowers teams


Effective goal setting not only can lead to stronger alignment, but also empowers teams to work together for greater impact. Goal setting requires commitment, communication, and top-down alignment. In addition, it also requires communication and transparency so employees at all levels understand their contributions and impact.  Viva Goals provides companies with the capabilities to be successful in their goal setting journey.


For successful adoption across your organization here are some best practices we have learned in our own journey:

  • Get executive buy-in to the process and commitment to provide clarity on vision and overall objectives.
  • Identify OKR champions to scale to and coach individual teams for consistent quality standard. At Microsoft, our OKR champions helped ensure a reasonable number of OKRs are selected for each team which fostered teams to focus on a few items for stronger impact.
  • Develop and manage organizational OKRs as an outcome of continuous strategic planning cycles and not as a separate, distinct activity. At Microsoft, our OKR champions meet monthly to share best practices and ensure teams are creating clear OKRs on high-level objectives.
  • Adjust OKRs and priorities on a regular basis with dynamic goal-management practices.
  • Provide visibility at all levels so leadership team can see progress towards objectives and individual contributors have visibility into how their work contributes to objectives.


To better support your goal setting journey, technology plays a key role in helping to ease the process. Viva Goals provides visibility into organization objectives, enables transparency for both leaders and individual contributors, offers a dashboard to readily measure progress, and integrates with Microsoft ecosystem tools such as Teams, Outlook, PowerBI, Excel and PowerPoint, for easier communication, reporting, and integration.


For questions on Viva Goals, leave us a comment or question below. We are happy to answer your questions on Viva Goals.


For more information on Viva Goals, check out these resources


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.