Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SMAC Your Staff

End of March means end of the first Quarter.

April means employee reviews for the first Quarter.

I recommend that you SMAC your staff every quarter. That means, create goals that are

- Specific

- Measurable

- Actionable

- Consistent


We certainly SMAC our employees.

We have a very simple form. At the top it has the employee's name and job description (one sentence). Then it lists job requirements (e.g., 70-282 exam or MCP status).

After that, we list a handful of things we will evaluate for the quarter. We start out with some "overall" goals so that everyone knows what's important in the big picture:

- Overall quality of technical support provided to clients
- Overall contribution to positive relationships within KPE
- Overall contribution to positive relationships between KPE and clients

The first set of goals is very general. They represent the values of our company and give us the "big picture" view of how an employee is doing.

For example, two of these items are about relationships. In our organization, relationships matter a lot. We only want to work with nice people -- inside or outside our company. So we don't tolerate clients who are abusive and we don't tolerate employees who can't contribute to a positive atmosphere.

For these higher-level goals, we don't go into great detail. After all, it would be silly to list out "Don't yell at customers" or all the many ways people can be unpleasant to work with. This is bigger-picture stuff.

Then we list very specific goals for the quarter.

- Certification Goals: Complete One MS Exam
- Learn to manage resources for KPE in Autotask
- Master Zenith SaaZ Scripting
- Completely revamp the remote office network and VPN
- Maintenance and care of Technician's on-hand supplies (The Scary Box)

[What we call the "Scary Box" is not supposed to be scary at all. It's the supplies we expect every tech to carry in their car. I'm sure you have something similar: network cables, a screwdriver, spare tapes, etc.]

Notice how each of these is Specific, Measurable, Actionable, and Consistent.

Specific goals have enough detail that they can be easily seen and evaluated. In fact, specificity makes these goals measurable and actionable. If I say "Be Good" there's not much to measure there, or take action on. Everyone can argue about what that means.

Measurable goals are easily evaluated. Just ask the question "How will I know that this goal has been achieved?" For example, what constitutes mastery of scripting in Zenith?

It is easy to see what sales goals look like: One contract, two contracts. $10,000, $50,000. But we don't measure out technicians in terms of the dollars they bring to the table. That's not their core function. We measure technicians in terms of service delivery.

The service manager is measured in terms of the utilization of the technicians.

Actionable goals clearly state the end-point that must be reached. An employee should be able to look at an goal and know what they need to do to accomplish it. Pass a test. Learn a software package. Complete a task. Once the end-point is clear, the employee should be able to start taking actions to achieve the goal.

If the goal is vague ("be a good employee"), there are no specific actions that can guarantee success. But if the goal is clear enough, the employee will understand both the end-point and the path to take.

Consistent goals contribute to the overall job description (stated above the goals). They also contribute to the department's goals and to the company's goals. They evolve from quarter to quarter with the employee and help the employee to improve as a professional.

- - - - -

When the company has goals and values, this process is pretty easy. That makes it possible for departments to have written goals, and for employees to have written goals.

The values and goals flow from the top of the organization down to the individual level. And the individual contributions build and support the goals of the organization from the individual level up to the aggregate.

Even if your company only has one, or three, or five people, you should do quarterly evaluations.

On one hand, it's only fair to the employees to tell them what purpose of their job is and how they can contribute to overall success. And, on the other hand, the cascading sets of goals will help your organization build a map to the future.

It is pointless to come into work every day, every week, every month, and work really hard without a big picture. If all you do is bang your head against the handful of emergencies that came up today, you will never get ahead. Because there is no "ahead." There is only the same daily grind with no larger purpose and no measure of success.

There's an old saying that it would be very sad to climb the ladder of success and discover it was leaning against the wrong wall.

We are too easily drawn into busy-busy work that leads nowhere in particular.

Yes, you accomplished something by fixing a computer. But over the course of a week or a month, what have you done to move your professional development forward? What have you done to move your department forward? What have you done to move your company forward?

Working really hard toward No Goals is absolutely pointless.

And very common.


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