One of the simplest ways to improve the performance of any group is to set specific, difficult, group goals.
Too often we overlook this. We try hundreds of tactics to get people engaged before setting a common goal. When we do set a goal, it’s too abstract to have any value.
Groups with goals perform better than groups without. Members identify more with groups that have goals (this is why purpose-driven organizations perform so well). Members internalize the goals of the group and align their actions accordingly. Members share more information with one another too.
They can also identify and celebrate milestones on the path to that goal – which increases the motivation of group members. The closer you get to the goal, the more people want to contribute to the group (and associate themselves with the group’s success). There’s a term for this, it’s called BIRGing (basking in reflected glory).
There are some simple principles for setting group goals.
- The goal should be specific. The more specific the goal, the more people can visualize the end result and align their actions to achieve it.
- The goal should be difficult. Difficult goals increase performance more than easy goals. However, it shouldn’t be ‘too’ difficult.
- The goal should be framed as a challenge, not a threat. People disassociate themselves with threatening goals. Threatening goals provoke fear which stops creativity.
- Once the goal is set, provide the support and resources for people to achieve the goal. Increasing the difficulty of the goal without accompanying support is going to cause problems.
- The goal should incorporate the motivations of members, but not be determined entirely by them. You shouldn’t drop a goal upon a group and expect it to succeed. If the group goals conflict with the individual goal, the performance of the entire team suffers.
This gives us some practical steps:
- Interview members or design a survey for your group and identify their beliefs, ambitions, and values. Look for common patterns to create the goal. The best goals are usually reducing common problems or frustrations people face every day rather than forcing top-down agendas upon a group.
- Establish the group’s current performance or progress towards the goal over time. Design a goal that stretches the team beyond their previous level of performance. If you’re trying to reduce the number of internal e-mails sent, then tracking that number is the first step.
- To build momentum, celebrate any visible progress towards that goal. This usually means looking hard for any slither of hope among the darkness that suggests progression. If only 1% of people are improving, celebrate and spread the success story of the 1%.
- Solicit ideas to achieve the goal. You can provide your thoughts too, but developing the strategy to achieve the goal has to be a co-developed process. Don’t ever set stretch goals without also increasing the abilities and resources of the group to achieve them.
- Give group feedback towards the goal. Deliver frequent feedback towards the group goal in news articles, e-mails forum discussions, and any contact you have with the group.
This works as well for online groups as well as offline groups. It works for teams and at the macro-crowd level. If you can set the right goals, you will drive greater participation.
p.s. We’re now just 32 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at: http://sprint.feverbee.com.