Aligning on Organizational Goals
When board misunderstanding got in the way of organizational impact, CAEE used SEE to take action and develop a shared sense of alignment.
Board members at the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE) thought they were aligned on the same organizational goals, but realized their interpretations of these goals varied greatly. It was creating conflict within the organization that impeded its ability to function effectively. To get on the same page, CAEE took a step back, and worked together to redefine its mission, vision, and values.
Thinking with SEE
Board members at the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE) immediately recognized that model building and meaningful action were impeded under their current system. Due to the wide variety of interpretations, no one’s goals were being pursued by the board and members were unsure about whether their contribution was making a difference. Individuals voiced that they felt their goals were not respected and their interpretations were being drowned out.
The Small Experiment
Over the course of a workshop retreat, CAEE’s board collaborated to redefine the mission, vision, and values of the organization. They then used these new definitions as a template to evaluate each of their current projects and eliminated those that were not advancing CAEE toward their shared goals.
CAEE found that collaboratively redefining the goals and mission gave them a sense of ownership over their organization that had been lacking before. Making the goals clear and using them to evaluate specific projects increased the staff’s feelings of meaningful action and clarity because employees knew how their specific work was relevant to the entire organization. It also made the workplace less confusing and lowered the directed attention demand associated with each task, thereby removing former impediments to robust mental model building and effectiveness. Lastly, they found that collaborative goals led to conversations that were less contentious and more impartial.
Experiment for Yourself
The absence of established goals or differing interpretations of the same goals can be a roadblock to the organization’s functioning. While having a variety of goals can be beneficial, they need to be recognized, coordinated, and manageable. It is critical to hold a workshop, meeting, or other gathering to bring together the different voices and perceptions in the organization. Rework the goals so that they make sense to everyone, then ensure everyone is able to interpret their individual projects in the context of the new goals. It is important to determine where clarity is deficient and to jointly improve it.