Starting with Goals: Asana’s 2023 Anatomy of Work Global Index

Yesterday, a client asked where best to start to really make the most of Asana. The answer was clear: Goals.

While I have known this from helping many clients, large and small, to implement goals organization-wide in Asana (often using the OKRs framework), now I can cite a new, data-backed resource: Asana’s just-published 2023 Anatomy of Work Global Index provides compelling findings and clear calls to action presented in an engaging, information-rich report deck.

Goals are Everything

Goals in Asana direct focus at the organization, team, and individual levels and increase cross-functional (XFN) collaboration, another key theme in this year’s Anatomy of Work.

Clear goals contribute to business success by boosting collaboration, innovation, and employee engagement. They offer a defined starting point and pave the way to most effectively gain all the benefits that Asana has to offer.

Why do I say goals are everything? When you consider the following 360-degree view of your organization leveraging Asana effectively, how could you conclude otherwise?

  • Top-down Goals directly tie into work—in the form of portfolios, projects, and milestones—to foster effective collaboration with purpose and clarity all year long.
  • Bottom-up Goals are implemented by deep Asana usage and with the completion of work as milestones and tasks. In an upward cascade, you track and monitor your goals’ measures via metrics, automatically or manually, and through status reporting on projects, portfolios, individual goals, and key results at your preferred cadence.

Goals, Enterprises, and Cross-Functional Collaboration

Clear goals support strong XFN collaboration:

  • 89% of workers at collaborative organizations (based on five dimensions focused on collaboration and communication) say they have clear goals for their role. That’s nearly 3x compared to those in less collaborative organizations.
  • Similar findings (nearly 90% vs. nearly 30%) apply to workers saying 1) that their company has clear organizational objectives, and 2) that their own objectives are connected to their company’s goals.

Organization-wide goals require XFN collaboration across departments and teams at any business or nonprofit. But for enterprises, in particular, XFN collaboration is crucial:

  • Enterprise respondents cited alignment across teams as their biggest business challenge: 41% of workers at enterprise-sized companies say creating alignment across teams is a top-three challenge. That’s compared to just 33% of all knowledge workers.

Ripple Effects of Clear Goals

Many more wide-reaching positive outcomes redound with the setting of clear goals:

  • Knowing your “why” increases engagement and reduces burnout
    • Workers at companies with clear objectives said they understood how their work supported their teammates, 111% higher than those without objectives.
    • 87% of workers with clear goals could see themselves working at their current company for the next year; that’s 85% more than workers who said their company had no clear goals.
  • Better business preparedness
    • 87% of workers with individual goals tied to company-wide goals say their company is well-prepared to meet customers’ expectations—more than double those without (37%).
    • 73% of workers with clear goals say their company is ready to achieve a competitive advantage; just 23% of workers with no clear goals can say the same.
  • Increased information sharing
    • At companies where individual objectives were linked to company goals, employees were also far more likely to 1) share information (83% vs. 24%), 2) ensure information was getting to the right people (83% vs. 27%), and 3) keep key players informed (81% vs. 26%).
  • Easier collaboration with stakeholders
    • 71% of people at companies with clear goals said it was easy to work with stakeholders in other functions, compared to just 26% of workers with no clear goals.

Simplifying Goal-Setting

Achieving these benefits, while not a trivial effort, is achievable and can be simplified:

@Rebecca_Hinds, Ph.D. and Head of Asana’s Work Innovation Lab, synthesizes, offers a clear call to action, and points to the future:

Collaborative Intelligence [the ability of employees, teams, and organizations to understand how collaboration is happening and how it should happen] can—and ought to be—an essential input into a company’s goal-setting approach. In particular, it can enable leaders to see where collaboration breakdowns exist and which teams are not collaborating effectively or in high-value ways.

Once these breakdowns and their consequences become visible, organizations can be proactive about setting goals to target the true source of the issue.

As I draw on these guidelines to support my Asana clients, I will also look forward to future Anatomy of Work findings and new ways the Work Innovation Lab will help improve our Collaborative Intelligence.

Larry Berger
Asana Consultant at Trilogi Solutions
Asana Services Partner, Technology Partner, Forum Leader, Event Leader

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Agree, this is so important!
Even virtual assistants who are only working on a some tasks within one department will be able to work more efficiently and they will be a lot more motivated when they know that also their work contributes to achieve a much bigger goal.

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Hello there! Product Manager for Asana Goals here.

This post is awesome @lpb, thanks for sharing. If you or anyone in this forum wants to chat with me about your goals needs—whether related to product, process, or people—please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’d love to learn more.

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Thanks so much, @arijanover, for the compliment and the generous offer. I will definitely keep that in mind and reach out if I think of something. Meanwhile, keep up the great work!!

Larry

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Hi arijanover,

Yes! I’d love to chat about our goals’ needs! Here are my thoughts in ranked order of importance.

  1. As far as I know, there is no good way to export our goals to a format outside of Asana. This makes reporting out such a hassle. I need to be able to take snapshots of my team’s progress for the Board, for performance reviews, etc.

  2. It’d be so nice to be able to sort goals by time frame. It becomes a jumbled mess that is hard to keep straight when we first put our company goals together.

  3. Goals timeline. It would benefit our high-level planning greatly if we were able to better conceptualize when goals will be finished in relation to each other.

  4. A collapsible tree view of our goals. A verticle representation of the goal nesting would also help with high-level planning. The current horizontal view of the hierarchy limits how much we can view at once.

Generally - love the product. I’m still a raving fan. Rolling out at least #1 would make my job so much easier.

Cheers.
Tegan

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Thanks so much for the feedback. Keep it coming!

  1. Yes, we have a new team called Executive Engagement that is working on exports. @anon73009928 is the PM and he can tell you more about it.

  2. Noted. I’ll add the feedback to our system.

3 and 4. Yes! We are thinking about timeline and tree views but we are not prioritizing it this year. Happy to discuss more about the why and what we are prioritizing!

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This was a really interesting read, thanks.
We’re working to implement Goals and OKRs meaningfully for the first time this year. We’ve set good Goals and OKRs at the company and individual levels, but are struggling to get them recorded in Asana in a manageable way.

I’d love some more guidance or examples about how to actually in practice use the Goals module. We understand technically how to use it, but can’t figure out how to make it useful

  • Using the Goals module to record everything, we find it’s turned into a jumbled mess by the time we’ve all put in multiple Objectives with their Key Results across multiple quarters. There seems no way to sort or filter or get meaning from it at a glance.
  • Some of us laid out very detailed sets of Key Results, but putting them all in as Sub-goals made no sense because there was so much duplication with Projects and Tasks.
  • Some of us have tried using Goals for just the Objectives, connecting Projects as Key Results, but then you can’t see the Key Results without opening each goal, so again no useful information at a glance.
  • The worst is when you own a complete stack: The company Goal, the team-level Key Results, and individual-level Key Results for those. It’s a dog’s breakfast.
  • Finally, it’s a lot of work to set everything up, load all the information in. We keep trying new things, and it’s cumbersome.

Basically, we can’t figure out what should be a Goal, Sub-goal, Project, or Task; or how to structure it all so that we can scan a single place and see our individual objectives and key results we’re aiming for right now.

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Hi @Liohn_Sherer,

Thanks!

Re the primary part of your post…That’s a lot, and you didn’t even throw Portfolios and Reporting into the mix, too!

For me, I don’t feel I can do justice, or even that it would be responsible to try to answer, in a forum post. There are a number of different ways of implementing OKRs in Asana, and choosing among them requires a bit of a discovery process and quickly prototyping potential solutions. I’ve done that with client organizations large and small and would be happy to assist if you were interested. And I was serious about Portfolios and Reporting; they’ve figured nicely in some implementations, depending.

Thanks,

Larry

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Hi! I have a question about how can we tag specific milestones/sub-tasks to our goals. Right now, it takes all the milestones and sub-tasks into consideration while calculating goal progress which sometimes gets confusing as not all of the tasks are directly related to our goals. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance

Welcome, @Rashi_Adukia,

Here’s a suggestion for doing that for milestones; you could do similarly for tasks/subtasks:

Larry

Thanks for the response @arijanover! Looking forward to hearing from @anon73009928.

@Tegan_Johnson would love to chat as we’re actively working on goals export. Could you email me at grahamperkins@asana.com and we can find some time?

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