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Author's profile photo Michał Szymaczek

How to transform goals management & learning by “3x3x3” approach and SAP SuccessFactors

This post is part of my article “Challenges in HR digital transformation-”. Since the topic of employee development is one of the most current challenges, I decided to post this thread here.

We are at a point now where long HCM projects aimed at preparing “perfect” solutions will not work in many cases. The extraordinary popularity of agile methodologies in almost every area of business (including HR) is not accidental. Organizations need quick results that can evolve later, but the benefits of solutions should be visible in just a few months (as opposed to big-bang projects, which take an average of 12 months). Here, I will propose a change that, with the support of SAP SuccessFactors, can be carried out relatively quickly and contribute a lot to the employees development.

“3x3x3” approach

The consulting company McKinsey designed a simple and extremely effective approach to managing employee goals and learning. The “3x3x3” approach is based on three principles:

  • An employee may have a maximum of 3 development goals defined;
  • These goals should be achievable within a period of not more than 3 months;
  • In order to achieve these goals, we should use communication with at least 3 people.

Why the number 3? The number of goals, on the one hand, should not be too large so that an employee can focus on them, on the other hand, it should not be less than 3 so as not to limit the employee and allow them to take advantage of opportunities and to minimize the risk of failure (when, for example, we fail to achieve one goal, we have two more that can be achieved). Besides, each of us has more than one domain in which we want or need to grow. When employees have too many goals (more than 3), they lose focus, moreover, they forget about some of them.

Three months is long enough to get measurable results (with properly defined goals) and short enough not to succumb to the temptation of procrastination. Three months is a good period to review and revise goals, giving a chance to get feedback from a supervisor or to modify challenges if the situation requires it.

Organizations underestimate the importance of the so-called goal socialization. Involving others (at least 3 people) in communication or cooperation in achieving goals is, according to psychologists, one of the strongest motivators. It also means working on joint development and collective celebration of successes. Finally, it is a healthy social pressure on the way to achieving goals.


Implementing a simple 3x3x3 approach can result in increased employee performance and satisfaction, but may also require interference in established patterns and procedures, and above all, a change in the organizational culture.

An organizational change and SAP SuccessFactors

How can such a change be supported by SAP SuccessFactors? This is where the SF Performance & Goals (with Continuous Performance Management) and SF Succession&Development features come in handy. The implementation of this package using the SAP Best Practices can be carried out within 3 months. How to support the “3x3x3” approach with technology? Here are some tips:

  • Development goal plans should be defined on a quarterly basis;
  • The employee should have a maximum of 3 development goals for a period of 3 months;
  • The employee should be able to edit their development goals;
  • Goals can be public and visible to a wide range of colleagues (this will help “socialize” goals);
  • The employee should have the opportunity to participate in mentoring programs that will support the employee in meeting goals (SF Mentoring);
  • Using the SF Continuous Performance, the employee and their supervisor review goal achievement on a regular (weekly or bi-weekly) basis;
  • Using the Continuous Feedback, employees regularly request feedback from others in the organization.

A digital transformation project in the area of intentional learning can evolve and in subsequent, short (e.g. 3-month) periods expand the set of tools available to employees (e.g. SAP SF Work Zone can be a virtual work environment where employees share knowledge and work together to achieve goals; SF Learning can be a platform with a development training package).


I have just given you 1 example of a transformational project in development area. HR needs quick wins and these can be achieved using SAP SuccessFactors’ capabilities.

Please feel free to share your ideas for quick wins in HCM.

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