During my performance reviews at the three companies I have worked for during my 15+ year career in information security, I have seen a consistent and concerning disconnect between the annual goals/OKRs I set and the work that demands my time every week/month. This consistently results in me not fully achieving the goals I set.
The problem could possibly be an unfortunate side effect of the demanding and dynamic nature of my field, but its frequency and consistency over time at more than one company indicates to me that the root cause might have more to do with my own work patterns.
If I were to give a reason for the failure, it would most often be "I couldn't balance the time required with all of my other commitments." Yet that seems contradictory if my goals are what my company is hiring me to do. This lack of "performance" has not hampered my promotion or stature within the companies. However, at every performance review, I find myself admitting that I could not achieve what I said I would, which is concerning. Conversely, while I provide a lot of valuable support to the company, my performance review does not directly benefit from that activity because it has little to do with my goals.
Is this phenomenon known to be common in the IT industry, or does this appear to be primarily a personal failing?
What biases do I appear to have, or incorrect assumptions am I making?
How can I stop this cycle?
All positions I've held have been "consultant" in nature, meaning that I'm tasked with ensuring 'cyber' security at my organization. While I've always had a manager/boss, they do not have a background in my field. I've almost always been given a lot of independence in my work. I set my own annual goals/OKRs, but I also need to align them with those of my team and company. The company clearly states that my goals should be a 1-year timeframe, should follow S.M.A.R.T. principles, and should add value in the long-term.
Thus, my annual goals/OKRs are ones that naturally require consistent effort over 6-12 months in order to accomplish. These goals are often somewhat lofty, but they are achievable assuming that I can make focused effort. That seems reasonable to me. However, at goal-setting time, I am often left with a sense of "I need to somehow carve out additional time for these goals", rather than "my other work fits in around these goals".
My teams have been very small, and during my career have ranged from "just me" to "less than three". Regardless of team size, work is always structured one-person-per-project with each person juggling multiple projects, so we are our own taskmaster.
I/we am the only one doing what I do within the company, and we are always understaffed for the required workload. I often find myself to be the only person who knows how to do what I do, so delegation isn't much of an option.
Management is reluctant to increase headcount, because my work is a cost center, not a revenue generator. I have never known the concept of "downtime" during my career. 20-40 hours of overtime per week is the norm, which I accept.
My daily work is a mixture of projects, and also sudden issues which are unrelated to the projects, yet are usually either important or urgent (usually both). As per concepts like the Eisenhower matrix, non-important/urgent tasks are avoided or deferred. Solving challenging, time-consuming problems is a daily activity.
Many of the urgent issues are either ones I receive from others, or ones that I unintentionally discover on my own. In both projects and sudden issues, a cascade often exists such that in order to solve problem Z, one must must first deal with problems Y, X, W, etc. This causes nearly all work I do to take longer than I estimate it will require.
Every few months, a sudden issue will balloon into a project which genuinely must be dealt with ASAP, so of course other work suffers. In my mind, it is not feasible to simply not do my day-to-day work in favor of focusing only on my goals; the day-to-day work is also part of my role and responsibilities in addition to the longer term projects that my goals are attached to, but the balance seems impossible.
I am generally regarded as a highly-knowledgable, capable, "go-to" member for difficult work. Multiple times, I have been offered manager-type positions, which I have usually declined due lacking the confidence that I can deliver what is required (especially because my current responsibilities wouldn't simply disappear).
From the outside, one might interpret that as my company's confidence in my ability, but I suspect that such offers were more likely due mistaking my technical skill for management savvy or a scarcity of other candidates at the time. Yet even if it were a reflection of my ability to get things done, then why am I consistently unable to achieve my goals? I feel like a walking contradiction.