Payroll example of engineering objectives

What to read first: Precision-engineering objectives

New to this Version 3.0 Beta

This table shows the original note of each objective (in the left column) and the engineered version (in the right column). In the middle is a description of the issue.

There are examples of change based on each of the four qualities for a list of objectives: Necessity, Sufficiency, Ownership, Independence. These qualities were explained in the drill-down article on precision-engineering objectives.

The firmed version of the objectives will be carried forward to examples for later stages.

For consistent presentation, the edited objectives are shown in a consistent style, for instance, all beginning with a verb like ‘maximise’, ‘minimise’, ‘avoid’, or ‘maintain’.

Original objective Issues Precision objective
Benefits: What does the organisation expect the unit to deliver in exchange for the cost of maintaining it?

1. Get employees paid correctly

Think through what that means, exactly (i.e. improve precision).

Asked the question ‘why does this matter’. Found there were two basic drivers. One was purely about legal correctness, and the other was about making employees feel that they are being looked after. So split the objective into two.

1. Maximise the timeliness and accuracy employee payments employees in line with proper management decisions and legal entitlements

2. Maximise the employee perception that this organisation is a good employer

2. Comply with union pay agreements


Complying with agreements is part of paying employees ‘correctly’, so this objective will be combined with the objective get employees paid correctly.

3. Pass the annual financial statement audit

Think through the what the unit does that influences the outcome. Arguably the original objective wording is fine.

3. Maintain auditable records to support all payroll costs

4. Introduce quality control


Quality control would be an internal initiative, not an outcome for the organisation. The goal of quality control is to maximise accuracy and timeliness, which is now clearly included in the first objective.

Nothing on quality control is needed for this list of objectives, though quality control remains a strategy.

Costs: What costs does the organisation incur in maintaining the unit?

5. Minimise unit salary costs

Added precision, then decided that the unit salaries and ICT costs are not the goal in themselves. The real goal is to minimise total costs per paid employee.

4. Minimise total payroll service costs per paid employee (including ICT costs)

6. Minimise payroll ICT costs


During review, remembered that the CFO and the boss have been more obsessive about meeting budgets than about real-world cost-performance. They would not be happy if we did everything else but went over budget.

5. Stick to the approved unit budget

Dangers: What unintended consequences could arise from the unit’s activities (and are best avoided)?

7. Fraud by employees or payroll unit members

Add precision to the unit’s responsibilities

6. Prevent fraud against the organisation by employees or by payroll unit members

8. Fraud or cyber-attack by outsiders


The unit has almost no role in preventing cyber-attacks, whether or not they lead to payroll fraud. Left to the cyber security area after verifying that payroll was adequately recognised in the enterprise security risk assessment.

9. Too much unrecorded absence

Unrecorded absences: Employees being absent but being paid as though working. Includes unrecorded short absences (cigarette breaks) through to personal time on official travel, part-days with no leave record, whole days, to incorrectly recorded weeks of known extended absences. The employee may let the boss know about the absence, but the absence is never formally recorded for payroll and HR purposes.

The initial note was not in the form of an objective, more like a known problem. It would be better as Reduce the average balance of unrecorded leave.

But then it broke the ownership principle. The payroll unit is not well placed to reduce the pattern of unrecorded leave. This issue will be mentioned to the boss, and excluded from the payroll unit objectives. The boss may later re-define the role of the payroll unit, at which time the objective may be added again.

10. Confidentiality breaches

Add precision to the unit’s responsibilities. Recognised that the unit can potentially breach confidentiality itself, or allow others to do so.

7. Prevent and avoid violations of confidentiality expectations around payroll


The business plan police required that organisational values be addressed in each business plan, so we also include it in the objectives for risk.

8. Prevent and avoid actual or perceived unit violations of organisation values and codes of conduct

Capabilities: At the end of the plan period, which unit capabilities need to be as good or better than they are now?

11. Maintain capability to pay employees

Explored what ‘maintaining’ means when we are planning a big change.

9. Maintain the organisation’s capability to pay employees correctly indefinitely, even if there are changes in the way payroll services are provided

12. Move payroll to the new system as identified in the strategic plan

Just moving to a new system isn’t really success. Explored what success means.

10. Move to a new payroll system and service arrangements with the long-term benefits identified in the project brief.

Parent articles

Precision-engineering objectives

The objectives should be necessary, sufficient, independent and yours. If the process has been followed successfully, the number of objectives will usually end up somewhere between four and fifteen.

Everyone Version 3.0 Beta

Main article on Risk in work unit business planning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated from a sea of spam, so may not be published immediately. Email contact may get a quicker response.