When reading about how Microsoft does business, it’s quickly evident that we’re a metrics-driven organization. Even my wife, who works in strategic planning, mentioned that the instructor at a recent training class cited Steve Ballmer as a core example of someone who leads by scorecard.

On the surface, one might think this would be frustrating. Feeling micromanaged, like your time revolves around the numbers. If the numbers became out of sync with business reality, or if they were unreasonable, I might feel this way. But Microsoft leadership seems to be responsive to changes and suggestions each year, and the process gets me regularly thinking about creating goals that help grow our business, increase my impact, and help others succeed (among other things).

I work in a super competitive place. My compensation is partially awarded in the context of others in my pay grade, as well as the one above me. This means some very experienced, passionate, and intelligent people are vying for the same recognition that I am.

So each year I sit down a few times with my manager to tweak my “SMART” goals to help me stand out above my peers. In some ways, it’s a personal exercise rather than an organizational one. For instance, trying to figure out how to put a personal metric on increasing my exposure and influence is a little tough, and the output seems a little goofy. Statements about number of technical discussions outside my immediate team, for instance, represent my intention rather than a metric tied directly to business accomplishments. I think the point is more to consistently think about accomplishing the intention of goals, rather than the language itself.

The process isn’t flawless, and some of the metrics that get assigned to me may not fit exactly with my work conditions. Also, the goals are not explicitly examined as if they were an exam, so some aggressive goals I set (such as a new MCITP or MCPD certification) get lost in the shuffle if I don’t highlight them specifically. But, generally speaking, goal setting at MCS is a motivational process and has helped lead me down an interesting path towards a more visible presence within my team and at my customers.