The Great Embryo Goals Experiment

55 employees, 948 goals, 6 departments, 1 year.

We all know that setting goals is a great way to improve ourselves. There is plenty of evidence for this. Here’s just one piece of useful information about goals:

Results from 384 trials have proven that goal setting has a significant influence on behaviour(from the study ‘Unique Effects of Setting Goals on Behavior Change: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis‘ from The University of Manchester)

This research concluded that setting a goal that is challenging, publicly accountable, and related to a group is the most effective way to influence individual behaviour. Additionally, this may motivate procrastinators to be more proactive in reaching their goals.

So I thought – why not ‘do some goals’ on a grand scale, across a whole company – and in public? Then I thought to wrap it into an experiment, so that others may benefit from the data.

And so, the ‘Great Embryo Goals Experiment‘ was born. A framework for managing the goals of every person at Embryo.

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” –Zig Ziglar

Each quarter, everyone at the company is asked to set three goals (chosen from a list of suggestions). No one is forced to complete their goals, but we do ask is that they set them at the beginning of the quarter.

The goals that can be selected are:

  • Online Course
  • Read 10 blog posts
  • Attend seminar (in-person)
  • Networking meeting
  • Read a book
  • Run a training session (your team)
  • Attend a training session
  • Write a LinkedIn article
  • Write an extra Embryo blog post
  • Run a training session (other team)
  • Write a guest post
  • Write a Thought Leadership guide for Embryo Hub
  • Attend a webinar
  • Lunch with colleague for the first time
  • Earn a certification
  • Attend a sales pitch
  • Business Lunch

As you can see, each of these goals is geared to the self-development to the individual. Of course, the company gains from this self-development, by way of a more rounded team of people, who theoretically should be more focused on their work due to such goal setting.

At the time of writing, there are 55 employees at the company, which means that we will be setting 165 individual goals per quarter, with teams also having 4 goals per month to try and achieve. 4 goals times 6 teams is 24. And multiply this by 12 and you have 288 extra goals that is added to the 660 individual goals that should be set per year. A grand total of 948 goals.

As of the time of writing, it is now 11 days since the experiment was launched at Embryo’s 2023 AGM. Here is a snapshot of the data (31st Jan 2023):

This image shows the goals set by all employees for Q1 2023. The four employees at the base of the image have not started work at Embryo as of the time of writing. They will be starting the week after this article is written, and so will be asked to choose goals like everyone else.

Currently exactly 150 goals have been set for Q1, with 34 of those recorded as completed, which is a rate of 22.6%. One person is a ‘goal hero’, because they have already completed the three goals that they selected.

How do we monitor the goals?

We have a shared Google Sheet, which is accessible to all, and every person is responsible for choosing their own goals, and recording whether they have been completed or not. We also have a secret weapon in my colleague, Grace Nolan. Anyone that works with Grace knows that she is extremely thorough. She will be spot checking when people say that they have completed a goal. As this is an experiment, she is not in her position to chastise people, but merely as an overseer to see what is said to have been done, has indeed been done.

For example, if someone records which course that they have attended, Grace may ask for media that confirms such a thing. The same goes for a certification, a book read, or training session attended. This, of course, is open to abuse by anyone that wishes to do so, but because it is in the form of an experiment, we don’t anticipate this to be something that will be rife.

What do goals win? Prizes?

Nope, no prizes. And there is no pressure (at all) on anyone to achieve their goals. It is a completely personal decision. However, myself and my colleagues on the board are only human. We would probably be swayed to promote someone that had set and achieved all their goals over someone that had not done so. This is not a veiled threat, it is just human nature. Just like you would favour a football player that hits their own personal goals of scoring 30 goals per season. Or indeed, your favourite music artist that achieved their goal of writing the best album of all time (which is obviously TV Smith’s Channel 5, for the record).

What is the end goal?

I want to work in a company where everyone enjoys themselves, feels motivated, feels engaged, and works hard. I think that such an experiment could be a way to help in all of these things.


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