My current employer uses a quarterly system of objectives to track how everyone does throught the year. Every three months, we review our current set of goals, and get a new batch. Some of these repeat, others don't. The whole system, rather originally, is called "Management By Objectives" or "MBO" for short.
My problem is that some of these tasks really do take three months (or longer) to complete. Worse, I need to report on everything twice: once each quarter, and again at the end of the year. I'd also like to know what worked (and didn't) work during past years.
How to keep track of all those quarterly objectives? Here's my system. It took about a year to refine. It's fairly low maintenance, and pays off best at annual review time.
When all the objectives for the new quarter are available, I put each of them into RTM as a separate task. Each gets at least two tags: "wrk", and "mbo-2010q1" (for the current year, 2010, and the current quarter, Q1). I also use other tags, such as "team-goal", "stretch-goal", and a tag for each major project of which the objective is part.
After entering all objectives, I add priority. I use P1 to indicate that I am the primary owner, P2 for items which I share more-or-less equally, and P3 for items of which I am a small part. Some objectives have no priority (P4) when they are part of my daily tasks, or are purely reactionary (I don't get to choose when they get done, and will have no trouble recognizing them when they occur).
Then I create a Smart List called "MBO" to show only those tasks with this quarter's tag. Of course, the tasks will also show up in my "Work" list and my various project lists. I review this list weekly and create new tasks based on the focus for the week, current status of each one. (These "child" tasks do not get the "mbo-2010q1" tag.) As obstacles come up, or as milestones are acheived, I add a note to the item, as a sort of self-contained log.
When an objective is completed, I add a new tag called "hit", add any final notes, and mark it as Completed.
At the end of the quarter, I review the remaining tasks, updating notes as needed. Some of these are considered finished, and are handled as above (mark as "hit" and check them off). For those that I did not finish, I add the tag "miss", and check them off as well.
This system becomes very useful when you want to review past results (or the lack thereof). When asked for a list of the year's accomplishments, I simply search for "tagContains:mbo-2009 tag:hit status:completed", and drop those items in an email. Resume writing (you are updating that now and again, right?) is just as easy. I simply modify the search to find "tagContains:mbo" along with a date range. All that's left is to choose which ones are the best fit for the resume at hand.
Of course, it's also good to review missed goals. Using "tag:miss" instead can quickly help identify goals that have slipped by repeatedly. It's also very helpful to be able locate your log entries on those ones, when questions come up later.
This system expands to handle any number of years, and would work for months as well as quarters. I've found it very useful for keeping track of not only what I'm working on right now, but of all the things I'll need to remember in the future.
Posted at 11:28pm on January 29, 2010