Like many companies, SAP Concur has moved away from annual goals and reviews. In 2018, we transitioned to a quarterly goal cadence and we now conduct quarterly “SAP Talk” sessions. An SAP Talk is less like a formal review and more like a “super one-on-one” where we review the goals captured for the quarter, summarize what went well and what could have gone better, and this naturally segues into goals for the next quarter.
At the beginning of 2018, I worked with the managers in my group to define a structure for how we’d go about crafting goals centered around personal growth. We aligned to the quarters of the calendar year: Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4. Q1 includes January, February, and March; Q2 includes April, May, and June; Q3 includes July, August, and September; Q4 includes October, November and December. After a year of our 25-person group using this structure, we’ve been really happy with the results.
Below is the guidance we have documented for the group. I’ve talked about this approach with some of my friends and colleagues, but I wanted to share the approach more broadly.
While the quarterly cadence is not enforced in any way, we strongly encourage alignment to the quarters to keep the group in sync.
At the beginning of each quarter
Your goals for that quarter should be defined, written down, and saved into SuccessMap. You and your manager should create the goals together using the categories defined below.
Throughout each quarter
Your goals will occasionally change and you should update them when that occurs, with agreement from your manager.
While a quarterly cadence reduces the churn on goals when compared to annual goals, our goals must still be fluid. We are an agile organization and situations change; that means goals sometimes change midstream as well. Throughout the quarter, you should update your goals document to capture anything new that emerges. You can also keep a “backlog” of goals that come to mind for either the next quarter or some time in the future.
Feel free to reference your goals document with your manager at any point, including during your weekly 1:1’s if you would like to check in on any of your goals along the way. If you feel a goal has become stale and should be changed or removed from your goals, just discuss that with your manager and ensure you mutually agree to the change.
At the end of each quarter
Your manager will schedule an SAP Talk meeting with you. An SAP Talk is usually an hour-long session where you and your manager review the progress that was made against your defined goals. While your manager will likely spend some time collecting thoughts and notes, no preparation is needed from you coming into an SAP Talk. These meetings are primarily a means to ensure you and your manager are aligned regarding what progress has been made, where your team’s work deviated from the defined goals, and the kinds of growth opportunities you’re seeking. SAP Talks are meant to be informal, low-pressure, open discussions.
Blending SAP Talk and goal setting
During the SAP Talk, you and your manager will talk through each of your goals, identify those that were completed, those that are still in progress, and those that were not started. Inevitably, this discussion results in identifying some goals for the subsequent quarter or beyond. Because of this, it is expected that an SAP Talk meeting will actually double as the first pass of goal setting for the next quarter. Sometimes, all of the next quarter’s goals will be defined by the end of the SAP Talk; other times they will just be started. At the end of your SAP Talk meeting, you and your manager should discuss and decide if you need to schedule another meeting to finalize your next quarter’s goals.
We define a few categories of goals and we begin the goal setting exercise by discussing them in this order:
- Personal Growth
- Product Delivery
- Technical Strategy
- Management Strategy (only applies to people managers)
We start by identifying personal growth goals that are interesting to you. Because these are your individualized personal growth goals, it is expected that you will lead this part of the discussion. Your manager can help you refine these goals, but these need to be goals that you feel will help you accomplish your personal ambitions.
During the first pass of defining personal growth goals, you can simply note down skillsets that you want to gain or improve. If you need inspiration for identifying personal growth goals, a skillset gap analysis exercise can help; this can be an enlightening exercise to work on with your manager.
Your manager will generally know what the next quarter’s product delivery goals are; many times you’ll already be aware of the product delivery goals too. These are the features and other work that your team is tasked with delivering for Concur. Depending on your team’s makeup and charter, there might be specific features that you will be driving, or you might be contributing to features that will have equal contributions for multiple team members. Your product delivery goals should reflect your level of involvement, using phrases like “contribute to,” or “lead,” or “participate in.” It is not necessary to name specific contributions unless you and your manager agree that completing specific contributions is an important part of your goals.
Since your personal growth goals have already been defined (or started), you and your manager should reflect on those while identifying product delivery goals. While there may be product delivery goals that do not directly contribute to personal growth, you should avoid product delivery goals that are contradictory to personal growth goals.
Similar to product delivery, we also have technical strategy goals that your team will need to work toward. Your manager will have ideas on this and you will often have prior insight into these goals as well. The objective for your personal technical strategy goals is to capture how your product delivery should align to the team’s technical strategy. For example, you might capture that reusable code should be refactored out of an implementation and published to Artifactory rather than embedded within your team’s codebase.
Similar to product delivery goals, your technical strategy goals should also be aligned with your personal growth goals.
People managers also need to develop management strategy goals that align with the group’s management culture. These goals should support our group’s aggregate personal growth goals, product delivery goals, technical strategy goals, as well as our ambitions for continuing to refine our group’s culture and sustainability.
As people managers, we have inherit personal growth goals for improving our management skills. Our management strategy goals should align to those personal growth goals.
Why / What / How
With these different categories of goals, we cover the big picture from a few angles:
- Personal Growth defines the “why”
- Product Delivery defines the “what”
- Technical Strategy and Management Strategy define the “how”
For any goal, it should be clear why you’re working on it–the goal should relate to a personal growth goal. It should be clear what you’re working on–it should align to a product delivery goal. It should be clear how to deliver it–each goal should align to technical and management strategies.