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Why team objectives are so important

by Sarah-Jane Dale


10 December 2018

In the words of Diana Ross: “Do you know where you’re going to?”

OK, so I could have quoted any number of academics, but this way you’ll be singing along while reading this and hopefully get to the line: “What are you hoping for? Do you know?” Unless of course you’re not a fan, or you’re a millennial who doesn’t know this track, in which case I can only apologise.

How many of us end up in life in a place, job, lifestyle we hadn’t really planned for? Our life-paths are full of twists, turns, potholes and speed bumps.

Objectives trump everything else when it comes to team performance

Enough of the analogies. We know from considerable research, not least that of our co-founder and Advisory Consultant Professor Michael West, that having agreed team objectives and reviewing them regularly, is one of the most positively influential factors to effective team-based working.

The winding journey of our personal lives, which of course often results in amazing and wonderful experiences, if replicated in our work as teams could be a recipe for potential disaster.

When every member of a team is signed up to an agreed objective, when we all know what we are aiming for, we may experience setbacks, we may encounter obstacles, conflict and the need to adapt and revise, but we will all be sharing a common purpose.

I’m not sure why I’m doing this!

I know from my own experience how it feels in a team when just one person says something like – “I’m not sure why I’m doing this,” or “what’s the point in this?” It’s not a good feeling.

Conversely, a few years ago I was working in a team supporting social care employers in Dorset – a genuinely innovative and effective team. I have no doubt this resulted from collective leadership and our commitment to shared challenging objectives. Good times.

Real positivity, compassion for each other, a sense of belonging and shared ownership are much more likely in a team with clear, shared objectives. In fact, Michael pointed out to me recently how the work of Miles Hewstone links shared objectives to reduced prejudice.

Agree three to five clear objectives

Of course, objectives shouldn’t be a walk in the park – oops there I go again with an analogy. Objectives should stretch us as a team – be challenging but achievable. We all know that sense of achievement when we accomplish something that wasn’t necessarily easy.

If you can agree three to five clear objectives that describe specific outcomes by which success will be measured, you, your colleagues, your organisation and ultimately the community you support will reap the rewards.

Try it or maybe revisit the objectives you have – are they clear, agreed and challenging? And don’t forget to reflect. As Diana Ross might say, “Do you get what you’re hoping for?”



Fifty-odd years of inter-group contact: from hypothesis to integrated theory. Miles J. Hewstone, Hermann Swart Published 2011 in The British journal of social psychology DOI:10.1111/j.2044-8309.2011.02047.x

Examining the Indirect Effects of Perceived Organizational Support for Teamwork Training on Acute Health Care Team Productivity and Innovation: The Role of Shared Objectives Lyubovnikova, J., West, T., Dawson, J. & West, M. 21 Apr 2018 In : Group and Organization Management. 32 p.

New developments in goal setting and task performance. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (Eds.). (2013). Routledge.

Effective team working in health care. West, Michael Alun; Markiewicz, Lynn. The Oxford Handbook of Health Care Management. ed. / Ewan Ferlie; Kathleen Montogomery; Anne Reff Pedersen. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2016. p. 231-252.

For more on team objectives, identifying team objective dependencies, developing performance indicators and aligning to organisational goals, go to Agree team objectives in your Affina Team Journey or call us on 01252 727270 for more information.

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