NCTs: The Complete Guide [2024]

NCT (Narratives, Commitments, Tasks) is a modern goal-setting framework designed to enhance motivation and predictability in achieving strategic objectives.

Introduced by Ravi Mehta, NCT emphasizes the 'why' behind goals, providing context and purpose, which fosters greater commitment and alignment across teams.

What is NCT?

The abbreviation NCT stands for "Narratives, Commitments, Tasks".

NCT is an agile framework for setting and implementing strategic goals.

This sentence describes the three characteristics of Narratives, Commitments, and Tasks:

• NCT as a framework: NCT offers a structured approach for formulating qualitative Narratives and quantitative Commitments, which combined provide clarity and direction. Tasks are defined to achieve these Commitments, making the entire process actionable. NCT simplifies communication within the company by providing a clear and consistent method for setting and achieving goals.

• NCT as a strategic link: NCTs connect the vision and mission of the company with day-to-day operations. This alignment ensures that every action taken by a team contributes to the broader strategic objectives of the organization, promoting a sense of purpose and meaningful work among employees.

• NCT as an agile process: NCT is a continuous and iterative process that encourages continuous learning and adaptability. By allowing tasks to evolve based on progress and feedback, NCT fosters a dynamic environment where teams can quickly respond to changes and new information.

The interplay of these characteristics makes the NCT method a powerful tool for modern goal setting and management, explaining its increasing adoption by teams across various industries.

NCT model

Why the rise in popularity of NCTs?

The NCT method is gaining popularity because it addresses several key issues that teams often face with traditional goal-setting frameworks like OKRs.

NCT provides deeper context and ensures that every goal is tied to a strategic objective, making the goals more motivating and realistic.

By focusing on the narrative, teams understand the importance of their work and how it aligns with the organization's mission and vision.

Benefits of NCT:

• Increased Motivation
: Narratives help teams see the value in their work, increasing engagement and motivation.

• Clear Alignment: Ensures that goals are aligned with strategic priorities, promoting coherence across the organization.

• Flexibility: Allows tasks to be adapted as work progresses, enabling teams to respond to changes and challenges effectively.

NCTs vs OKRs

Traditionally, OKRs have been the go-to methodology for many firms.

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), were first introduced by Andy Grove and popularized by John Doerr, are designed to set ambitious goals with actionable outcomes that align and motivate teams.

The structure of OKRs helps in setting clear, measurable indicators of success but often misses deeper strategic connectivity.

• Objective: Define a significant and inspirational goal.
• Key Results: Set 3-5 measurable steps that indicate achievement of the objective.

Illustrative Comparative Examples:
1. Tech Startup Aiming to Innovate: An NCT approach could involve a narrative focused on dominating the smart home market by integrating deeper AI, with commitments linked to specific technological enhancements and product launches.

2. Software Company Scaling Up: Using OKRs, a company may aim to increase market share through defined key results like customer acquisition targets and product development milestones.

Why NCTs May Outshine OKRs for Product-Led Companies

NCTs foster a deeper connection between daily tasks and overarching business goals through compelling narratives. This connection is crucial in product-driven companies where teams are often buried in complex, fast-paced projects.
By providing a clear, story-driven pathway, teams can see exactly how their efforts contribute to the company’s success, enhancing engagement and effectiveness.

The Pitfalls of OKRs:
OKRs often fall short due to their inherent complexity and the common vagueness of objectives, which can leave teams directionless or misaligned:

- Vagueness: Objectives can be too broad or abstract, leaving teams uncertain about how their efforts contribute to larger goals.
- Complexity: Overly ambitious Key Results can demotivate teams, leading to frustration and burnout.
- Lack of Depth: OKRs often fail to convey the deeper "why" behind goals, making them feel more like checkboxes than parts of a coherent strategy.
- Execution Challenges: Without clear narratives and committed outcomes, OKRs can become just another set of metrics to track rather than a guide to meaningful action.

These issues can make OKRs seem more like a chore than a tool for success, especially in fast-paced, product-centric environments where adaptability and clarity are key.

The disconnect between strategic objectives and actual execution can hinder not just performance but also morale.

NCT as a framework

The NCT framework is built on three interconnected components: Narratives, Commitments, and Tasks. Each component plays a crucial role in ensuring that goals are meaningful, achievable, and aligned with strategic objectives.

Narrative: The narrative is the qualitative description that provides context to the goals. It explains why certain goals are essential and how they align with the broader business objectives. This narrative helps to inspire and provide a big-picture view, making the goals more meaningful for everyone involved.

Commitments: These are specific, measurable achievements that teams aim to accomplish within a set timeframe. Unlike traditional key results, commitments in the NCT framework are designed to be directly actionable and are crucial in measuring the progress towards the narrative.

Tasks: These are the key actions or steps that need to be taken to fulfill the commitments. Tasks are the most granular level of the framework, though should be kept as key tasks, not every single little details — providing a clear roadmap for teams to follow, ensuring that commitments are met.

NCT Framework Guidelines

NCT examples

Product Team Example:

Narrative: Product version 1.0 was launched two years ago. With advancements in AI technology, we have the opportunity to enhance our product to capture a larger user base and improve performance for existing customers.

- Increase customer database from 50k to 60k.
- Collect 30 reviews of the new version in tech publications.Increase the trial-to-sign-up ratio from 15% to 20%.
- Launch the beta of version 2.0 by the end of Q1.

- Test the new version internally.
- Reach out to tech publications.
- Improve sign-up forms.
- Launch advertisement campaigns for the new version.

Marketing Team Example:

Narrative: To stay competitive in the market, increasing brand visibility is essential. This will help attract new customers and retain existing ones.

- Achieve a 20% increase in social media followers.
- Publish 15 guest blog posts on industry-leading websites.
- Host 3 webinars with industry influencers.

- Develop a social media content calendar.
- Identify and reach out to potential guest blog sites.
- Plan and schedule webinars.
- Develop a social media content calendar.
- Identify and reach out to potential guest blog sites.
- Plan and schedule webinars.

Sales Team Example:

Narrative: To support the company's growth targets, it's crucial to boost sales figures through improved outreach and customer engagement strategies.

- Secure 10 new enterprise clients.
- Increase the average deal size by 10%.
- Reduce the sales cycle length by 20%.

- Enhance lead qualification processes.
- Provide advanced sales training for the team.
- Implement a new CRM tool to streamline sales activities.

Engineering Team Example:

Narrative: Over the past quarter, we have experienced multiple system outages that have impacted customer satisfaction and trust. To ensure our platform provides a reliable service, we need to improve system stability and reduce downtime. This will help us retain customers and enhance our reputation for reliability.

- Reduce system downtime by 50%.
- Achieve 99.9% system uptime.
- Implement automated monitoring for all critical services.

- Conduct a root cause analysis of the recent system outages.
- Develop and deploy patches for identified vulnerabilities.
- Set up automated monitoring tools for all critical services.
- Schedule and perform regular maintenance checks.
- Train the team on new monitoring tools and processes.

FAQs & Resources

1. Can NCT be used alongside other goal frameworks?
Yes, NCT can complement other frameworks like OKRs or SMART goals by providing the contextual depth often missing in those methods.

2. How do you measure success in the NCT framework?
Success is measured by evaluating whether the commitments have been met and assessing the impact of tasks on achieving the narrative.

3. What are the common challenges in implementing NCT?
Common challenges include ensuring that narratives are comprehensive and compelling, maintaining flexibility in task management, and aligning commitments with broader strategic goals.

4. How often should NCT goals be reviewed?
Regular reviews are essential. Weekly tracking of tasks completion, monthly reviews for commitments, and quarterly evaluations of narratives ensure continuous alignment and progress.

5. Can NCT be scaled for larger organizations?
Yes, NCT is scalable. For larger organizations, it can be implemented at different levels (team, department, organization) to ensure coherence and alignment across all levels. Towards organizational level, you can consider a simplist view where Team Narratives connect to Company's Strategic Themes.


Reforge Article

Read here the original article in Reforge, by Ravi Mehta.