5 lessons the CIA can teach us about organization-centric goal management

by Saba Software | Posted | Performance Management

5 lessons the CIA can teach us about organization-centric goal management

When you’re conducting sensitive, high-profile inquiries at the heart of world-shaping events, achieving objectives is mission-critical.

It requires superior intelligence resources, a clearly defined mission and goals, and detailed plans on how to complete objectives with 100% success.

An organization-centric goal model that focuses on organizational rather than individual success is key. This model aligns individual actions with the organization’s goals and mission.

We’d argue it’s also why the CIA has such a great track record for attaining goals.

By adopting a similar organization-centric goal management program you can:

  • increase employees’ commitment to the organization, and
  • achieve high-level results at an outstanding success rate.

With that said, here are 5 lessons about goals we can all learn from the CIA.

1. Function as one team

When the CIA assigns agents to a mission, they create special units that leverage different strengths and skill sets, and make one lean, mean, result-oriented machine. Operatives are brought in for their military intelligence, language skills or physical strength. They bring specific expertise to the table, but in the end, they all have one common goal.

Everyone at every level of the organization should not only understand high-level goals, but how their role helps their team and the organization achieve these greater goals, whether they’re about quality, innovation, customer satisfaction, or safety.

2. Be dedicated to the mission

A CIA agent is completely committed to the mission, and that mission is always to ensure national security.

The lesson here is: your organization needs to establish a greater cause that employees will be committed to. A clear mission gives everyone focus and helps to form your organizational culture. It’s the reason behind everyone’s goals, and should shape actions, behaviors and decisions.

3. Embrace personal accountability

When the safety of a country depends on how you execute a task, you need a uniquely heightened sense of personal accountability and discipline, and a focus on results. Due to the high-risk nature of CIA agents’ lines of duty, they get very limited recognition in the outside world — but within the agency, their unique contributions make them highly valued and indispensible members of the team.

When employees understand how their productivity contributes directly to a larger team effort, their accountability for achieving goals rises significantly. They take ownership of results — good or bad.

The lesson here is: when departmental and employee goals are linked to organizational objectives, and everyone’s achievements are tracked and acknowledged, it brings extreme accountability to the entire organization.

4. Emphasize adaptability in our approach to intelligence collection

A CIA operative must be able to deal with fast-moving, ambiguous and unstructured situations — a lot of the time, within extreme time-constraints.

With a proper organizational goal management system in place, employees have the blueprints laid out for their role in the company, and that helps them move quickly from strategy planning to strategy execution. The ultimate goal is to make sure that everything done by each individual is helping to move the company towards its long-term objectives.

Even if business priorities change or organizational structure shifts, high-level goals belong to the organization — not to the supervisor, not even to the CEO. Employees remain empowered to work on common organizational goals at all times.

5. Maintain line of sight

To be the nation’s first line of defense, leaders need continuous “line of sight” on who is involved in each initiative carried out by the agency and how they are progressing towards achieving goals at each level of the organization.

When you have a clear reporting chain, responsible for ensuring that the overall objectives of your organization are being met, say for example, retaining 92% of employees in 2013 — you are empowering each individual to take ownership of the organization’s success and can more easily monitor individual and organizational progress.

Mission accomplished

At the CIA, everyone understands why the organization exists and what they need to do every day to succeed. As the agency states on its website:

“This is more than just a job – it’s a way of life that challenges the deepest resources of personal intelligence, self-reliance and responsibility.”

One of the major limitations of a people-centric goal model is that employees’ performance goals are linked to their direct supervisor’s goals rather than to established company goals. In order to gain true workforce alignment, employees need to see how their contributions impact the organization’s objectives.

3 things organizations can do to align their workforce

  • Establish a clear connection between employees and organizational goals. This arms individuals at every level of the organization with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions that support the organization’s mission and objectives.
  • Match goals with strengths. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job and three times more likely to be happier with their lives in general.
  • Boost engagement all around. When employees are put in roles that use their strengths, plus have a clear understanding of the organization’s long- and short-term goals, they have the tools to develop their natural talents, improving the productivity and output of the organization as a whole.

For more information on goal management best practices, read the Goal Management Center of Excellence.

Explore Best Practices in Goal Management


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Explore Best Practices in Goal Management


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