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Workfront Goals: bridging the gap between daily work and company strategy

By Steven ZoBell, Chief Product and Technology Officer 

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One of leadership’s toughest challenges is aligning everyday actions with a sense of strategic purpose. How does what you are working on right now contribute to the business achieving its goals?

You’ll find evidence of a disconnect between strategy and daily activity in our State of Work research over the last six years—as year-after-year respondents have told us they believe their role matters, but spend too little time on the work that matters most.

How significantly would an organization's ability to achieve its goals improve if more than 40% of its workers’ time wasn’t squandered on activity that’s non-essential to what they were hired to do? The answer is coming in the form of a new product for 2020: Workfront Goals.

Connecting daily work to strategic goals: what’s been missing from enterprise work management so far.

The common diagnosis for the strategy-action gap is that it’s a communication and advocacy problem. If only people could understand the strategy better, they’d see where their role and activities fit in, right? 

The consequence of this diagnosis has been a focus on internal marketing tactics—posters, company town halls, email newsletters, meetings, meetings, and more meetings—where senior and mid-managers endeavor to “cascade” their corporate vision to everyone else. The value of multichannel communication tactics isn’t under question, but these tactics alone don’t support sustained goal alignment and execution. 

What’s been missing is technology fit for the task, one that wraps the context of “why” around your daily work. And that’s where our acquisition of app builder Atiim comes in. Atiim launched its goals and key results software in 2015 with the aim of aligning an individual or team’s activity with corporate goals in real-time. Acquiring Atiim and building on what they have learned will accelerate our progress towards the launch of Workfront Goals. 

Our ambition is to create enterprise-ready technology that gives each person in the company—not just the leaders or project managers—context for their daily work. No more guessing what you need to prioritize: the answer will be on your screen. A direct line will be drawn from what you’re doing to how it contributes to the strategic outcome you and everyone on your team is working towards. We’re going to help everyone understand not just what they’re doing, but why it matters.

Why is aligning goals a top priority for enterprises today?

According to Project Management Institute’s (PMI’s) Pulse of the Profession Report, “The High Cost of Low Performance,” nine out of 10 businesses say that strategy implementation is important to their organizations (who knows what the one in 10 are thinking!). But six out of 10 admit they often struggle to bridge the gap between strategy formulation and its day-to-day implementation. As a result, three in five projects are misaligned with corporate goals. 

PMI has put a dollar figure on the cost of failing to close the gap: $109 million wasted for every $1 billion invested in projects and programs. But that’s just the start.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report revealed that seven in 10 employees say they feel disengaged as a consequence of failing to see how their work helps move their business forward. Employee disengagement comes at a cost to the individual and the enterprise. 

Teresa Amabile, Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, says that too many workers are “quietly disengaged from what they do, and their performance is suffering as a result.” They don’t think they are making progress and this leads to slower revenue growth and lower profitability compared to businesses where employees feel fully engaged. Professor Amabile puts the cost to the U.S. economy at a staggering $300 billion per year.

As Alex Shootman, Workfront’s President and CEO put it in his book Done Right, “We all want to feel we matter as individuals and feel that what we’re doing matters. It’s the difference between action and purposeful action. If people don’t believe they are valued or there’s value in their work, they’ll forever dream of being somewhere else … frankly, anywhere else.” Our 2020 State of Work report validates Alex’s sentiment: 65% of those surveyed wish they were rewarded more on results instead of just deliverables. 

Why is now the right time for Workfront Goals? The benefit to businesses will be measured in productivity, performance, and profitability. The benefit to individuals and teams is employee engagement and sense of purpose, which translates to higher productivity and retention. We’ve all been working too long without it. Here are four things Workfront Goals will do:

  1. Scaling the power to prioritize. The power to align action to strategy and action will be open to everyone in an organization—everyone will have open access to knowledge and context. 

  2. Outcomes focused. Strategic objectives aren’t abstract, they are tangible outcomes. Everyone will be able to chart the connection between their daily work and the difference they are making to business outcomes.

  3. Integration. Goals will be integrated with the platform so team members won’t need to log into separate systems or modules. 

  4. Wrapping goals around individual workflows. Everyone will be working in the same environment—but however they want to. No matter how you work, the work you’re doing will always be in the context of enterprise wide goals. 

Bridging the distance between the work and the “why” could be the single most powerful thing leaders do for employee engagement and the success of their transformation efforts. 

The story of modern work—retold.

So far, every worker has been a character in a tale of earnest endeavor and trillions of dollars invested in well-intentioned initiatives to make work matter. But companies have gained almost no ground in helping workers focus on their most important work. PowerPoint, corporate posters, and comms tactics have failed to bridge the strategy-action gap. Our new technology can.

What we will launch next year will empower everyone in an enterprise to own its success. Workfront Goals will help us rewrite the story of modern work.

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