Do Shared Goals Help ?

Definition. Shared Goals are goals or purpose held commonly by a group of people to which they are committed.  

A recent engagement with participants of the TISS Winter School in OD for the social sector brought a very interesting aspect of organisations to the fore – that of having a common cause or a shared goal that will connect them together and energize them.

In almost all the social enterprises where the OD students were involved in fieldwork, they experienced the employees and volunteers of these enterprises as very passionate about what they were doing. "We could literally see the spark and passion in their eyes” were the words used by the OD students as they shared their experiences. Most of the NGOs concerned here had minimal resources at their disposal – funds, human resources, office space, etc.  And they work with people who face poverty, abuse, unemployment, domestic violence, and many such issues that could be emotionally stressful and draining. 

In spite of the environment in which the employees and volunteers worked, it was heartening and at the same time, surprising to hear that they were very passionate about the work they did. However it did not take much time to realise that when people are identified with a common cause – which in most of these cases are about helping others – they find an inherent energy and motivation to work towards it.

This realisation also automatically makes us think of for-profit organizations – where most often than not we find people working in environments of adequate availability of different resources. Employees have rewards and remuneration tied to the profits the organization makes. Organizations which are more profitable and powerful face little difficulty in acquiring the resources they need. In spite of resource surplus, leaders of these organizations are always looking for newer and novel ways to engage and motivate their employees. We also come across situations where some employees are not satisfied with the rewards and facilities and they demand for more.

Many of the for-profit organizations indeed have common vision and mission statements. But do these vision and mission statements energize their employees to bring in their best ? Even when organizations go beyond mere statements and try to enact their purpose, are they successful in getting commitment from the people ?  

I ponder here on the phenomenon of shared goals in corporates with some questions :

  •         Will shared goals such as becoming numero uno in the market or capturing a certain percentage of the market share or achieving an x% revenue growth be compelling enough to buy people’s commitment ?
  •       The shared goals of a typical non-profit body is aimed at ‘helping’ its beneficiaries, be it in providing monetary support, emotional support (eg., counselling), employment, providing shelter or skill building. Most of the employees of these organizations engage themselves in a ‘helping’ relationship with the members of the society they are serving. In for-profit organizations, what is the nature of this relationship – is it one of serving/helping or is it merely transactional ?
  •       While one of the primary motives of for-profit organizations is to create profit, how may we shift our perspectives from a transactional relationship to that of a ‘serving’ one ?
  •       Even as we are engaged in creating profit for our companies, can we look at the shared goals for ‘creating’ something new for ourselves and customers ?
  •       Will taking the perspective from point 3 above help in working with point 4 ? That is, if we are to look at our relationships with our customers as that of helping, will we become better at creating more and new ways to serve them ?
  •       Finally , is the shared goal really a ‘shared’ by all people  ? What was the process used to create the goal ? Was it merely top-down or were the people involved in creating it ? Would you be happy with shared goals that buy commitment rather than just compliance ?

Inspired by :

1.      TISS OD Winter School Program and participants
2.      The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge
3.      Humble Consulting by Edgar Schein


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