Central to every business strategy are its goals and objectives. However, too often business owners do not take the time to understand business goals and objectives, and the role each plays.
Diffen defines a goal as “The purpose toward which an endeavor is directed,” and an objective as “Something that one’s efforts or actions are intended to attain or accomplish.” Though similar and mutually supportive, goals and objectives are different — objectives often serve as tools for achieving a business’ goals.
It takes more than vague goal-setting to bring success in a business. As a business executive, it is your role to detail the objectives required to bring you closer to achieving your goals. Setting clear objectives requires you to be strategic. In doing so, you serve two great purposes for your business and your team.
A study conducted by Harvard University cited that goal setting increases the motivation of those involved in the business or project. Additionally, goal setting can lead to a higher level of achievement. The Harvard study details a 2010 experiment in which students following a detailed list of objectives saw a 30% increase in performance over those who didn’t.
Effective goal setting is about more than a vision or product. Setting clear objectives is all about being SMART:
Before establishing a timeline, the goal itself should be as specific as possible. A specific goal is well-defined and clear to everyone involved in executing the project. The people you select to fulfill these objectives will be ultimately responsible for delivering results.
With a clear objective in place, everyone on the team will work towards the same goal. Is your team headed in the same direction? Have you checked for understanding? Does your goal need clarification?
Think of your goal’s specificity as the what, how, and why of your mission.
The language of your objective should paint a vivid picture. It should be easy to comprehend. Use words and phrases such as “Create x to increase y,” or “Decrease by x.” There should be no question or confusion about what your target is.
Are your goals clear? Are they specific enough to match the passion behind your company vision?
With a measurable goal, you can identify a way to grade your progress. The what, how and why are all crucial parts of moving forward with an objective. But it’s also important for other reasons:
Measurable goals offer the opportunity to reflect on your project’s success. How far along are you? How are you doing?
It’s an objective tool that gives you hard criteria with which to assess your project. It’s a clear guide to help you quantify your outcome. If your goal is to complete a project by June 2017, have you completed the project by June 2017?
Note: Next month we’ll be visiting backplanning, an asset for planning and reaching objectives. Sign up today for the BusinessLife Digital Library for instant access.
There’s an indisputable “yes or no” metric to determine whether your work is a success or not. Whether it’s a date of completion or specific number of units sold, a measurable objective is one that gets achieved.
Did you make the deadline? Are you selling product or not? Is your new system live? Yes or no?
The word ‘achievable’ takes on different meanings for different industries and companies. On one hand, you could choose to create something that’s unheard of—a brand new technology that advances communication to unfathomable levels. Or, you can choose smaller objectives that serve as milestones on the way to a bigger goal.
What’s most important is that the achievability of your objective is reflective of your leadership. If you choose the “blue sky” objective and push for an innovative breakthrough, is your team supported in getting that work done? How will they know the goal is within the realm of possibility?
An objective should be challenging and push your company to a new level of excellence. But along the way, does everyone feel they can make it to the end? Is your objective so large that your team feels unmotivated? How can you choose an objective that keeps them engaged?
It’s important to assess how relevant your objective is to your business. The project should feel like a logical step for the team. It should be part of a greater success strategy that doesn’t require a complete reset for those involved. Does your goal make sense for your brand?
The relevancy of your goal provides a mirror for your business strategy. If you’re managing a retail corporation but pushing your team to create a new social media app, is that the best use of your time? Is this objective worth pursuing?
Your company goals will change over time. Even the “how” of your strategy will shift. The one thing that won’t change is time. Time is immovable, and once it’s attached to your goal, it will be the most objective way for you to gauge your progress and success.
If your project is 50% done with only a week left of your timeframe, you may choose to reassess. Was your time frame realistic? Was there knowledge your team needed that wasn’t originally provided?
Time-bound goals keep you grounded and push you to reevaluate. Are you on track? How do you get there if you’re not?
SMART objectives are a scale on which you can assess and control your final outcome. The clearer your goal, the smoother the process and the more polished the final result. Without the clarity provided by this process, your objective can be misconstrued.
Be clear about what it is you want to achieve and how you plan to measure it. By doing so, you will guarantee successful completion of your objectives.