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Leaders want to achieve something, improve something, grow something.

Only one path leads there, and its mile markers are goals that keep you and your team accountable to the company strategy.

Creating wise, well-defined goals that link to your business strategy (and can be communicated easily with your employees) is critical to your competitive edge. It falls short to only state your company’s goals, you must also determine how to achieve the goals. 

Business surveys reveal that up to 50% of staff time is spent on activities that do not align with the company’s strategy, so leaders in every sector are searching for ways to set smart goals and devote the right resources to meeting them.  

At Strategypoint, we know it’s possible to fix the breakdown between corporate level strategy and employee level work with the right goals and tools. The best goals shouldn’t be complicated, rather they should:

  • Have a numerical or measurable value
  • Be measured on a routine (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Feed directly into a company’s strategy
  • Be accomplished with the current staff and tools
  • Tie a target metric to a target date (X achieved by X)

Goal setting does not have to be a painful endeavor, but it does require knowledge (which you have as your organization’s leader) and a little bit of sweat equity.

How Many Goals Should you Have?

Peter F. Drucker said it best, “If you more than five goals, you have none.”

Browse any business journal, leadership training course, or stack of consultant materials and you’ll find varying magic numbers for how many goals your company should have. Who has time to compare all that advice to unearth the perfect amount for your organization?

Let’s make it simple: try three goals.

Consider your three goals a braid. When woven correctly, using superior materials, a braid is tougher and more durable. A healthy number of goals can fluctuate depending on whether they are departmental goals or overall company goals, but err on the side of fewer and know that five or more will be way too many to maintain focus and advance.

SMART Introduction

A study found 1.1 million unique acronyms identified in the past 70 years have caused confusion, ambiguity, and misunderstanding. Here is one that promises to do just the opposite. The SMART system to goal creation ensures goals are well-stated because they are:

  • (S)pecific
  • (M)easurable
  • (A)chievable
  • (R)elevant
  • (T)ime Bound

S – Specific

Researchers Edwin Locke and Gary Latham found that a person performs at a higher level 90% of the time, if the goal he/she sets is both specific and challenging. We observe often that finding a challenging goal isn’t the challenge, but defining it is. Here are some helpful parameters to get started:

  • Avoid generalities
  • State precisely what your team needs to accomplish
  • Clarify who is involved and what role they fill
  • Eliminate broad “hopeful” language and replace with purpose
  • Offer details on what success will look like when goal is accomplished

Think of yourself as a sculptor with a chisel who removes clay, wood, or stone to rough out a basic shape. Specificity in defining your goal will carve away items sometimes mistaken for goals.

Take projects, for example, teams newer to strategy struggle with defining goals and, as a result, settle for a long list of special projects. It is tempting to treat them as such because they are easy to track and understand. Projects can be the effort or item that helps teams achieve a specific goal so view them as building blocks.

M – Measurable

Tracking progress on a goal is motivating. It is rewarding to select a numerical target, which can be a hard number (growth by X%) or a range (stay within X and Y), and hit the mark in the designated time.

Research shows that goals are 76% more likely to be achieved if action commitments are written and weekly progress reports are shared. Routine accountability is a gamechanger so determine if weekly, monthly, or quarterly check-ins are best for a specific goal.

Key questions to measure goals:

  • What financial resources are required?
  • How will staff support the execution?
  • Who is responsible?
  • Who is accountable?

To increase ownership, build the company goals into staff performance reviews and reward those who accomplish. Goals should not be achievable in one step. If this is the case, then it’s not a challenging goal.

A – Achievable

We substitute other words for the A in SMART such as attainable and aspirational. Again, you have too much to accomplish to get mired in semantics. Select the A-word of your choice that will drive your team and go with it.

Teams should only be able to achieve 70% of their goals consistently, but you should still strive to ensure that your team is equipped to do what they’re asked.

Use past performance and SWOT analysis as a compass to inform your decision making for goal setting. The more time you spend researching your industry and doing a market analysis, the more accurate your goal setting is likely to be.

You want employees who understand their roles in each goal set and are excited to achieve. Here’s how you take the mystique out of “how can we ever accomplish this?” and build unity toward the goal:

  • Share goals with the entire team (you determine how and when),
  • Be transparent about where the company is,
  • Educate team members how they will be able to view and monitor goal progress,
  • Build business objectives into the budgeting process.

R – Relevant

To discover if an action is truly relevant or just something you think you ought to be doing, then ask “why?” It’s the quickest way to boil down the intention, your passion for it, and the potential outcome. 

Asking why also guards against mislabeling administrative work that needs to get done as a goal that supports the company strategy. If a goal cannot be associated with at least one strategic initiative, is it really necessary?

Determining relevance requires answering objectively without emotion some of the following questions:

  • Could our company easily discard this goal and move forward? Or does it have significance to our growth?
  • Have we allocated resources to achieving it? Could we?
  • Can we document it?
  • Is this goal realistic? Do we have the tools and capacity to accomplish it?
  • Does this goal contradict any of our other goals or our overall strategy?
  •  How will we know if we’re successful and celebrate achievement?
  • Do employees support and understand why we’re doing it?

We don’t track something we find irrelevant so tying goals into mission, vision, and values are a major factor in your success.

T – Time Bound

Regardless of whether you have a conservative or aggressive growth strategy, each goal needs a realistic timeline. A best practice is to note the due date for a strategic initiative and work backward to calculate at which point this goal should be met or measured to fuel the overall strategy.

Train your managers and employees to think strategically by placing goals at the forefront of the work week. This will send a clear message that goals are not something to visit once in a while or right before the due date. 

And, it should be impossible to complete a well-defined goal in a single day. 

 If your company has already established strategic objectives, here are some helpful ways to map the goals to the initiatives:

  • Review goals weekly during a routine meeting. We recommend weekly, biweekly, or monthly as data shows that team members tend to update goals immediately prior to a review session.
  • Follow up on areas where little or slow progress is made to goal. Enable managers with tools to share information and collaborate to stay on track with the goal’s timetable.
  • Focus on metrics and any barriers to success. Be adaptable when it is revealed during regular check-ins that a goal has not progressed and discuss what needs to evolve.

Alignment & Cadence

Communicating about goals is an effective way to inspire your employees. Goals can be a rallying point to offer alignment with mission and priorities. As you describe the final destination, it is important to have two-way communication that is honest and transparent. 

Use this opportunity to focus the entire organization and keep all employees updated as you move forward by:  

  •  Developing goals as a group to incorporate all perspectives,
  •  Finding ways to create a sense of goal ownership (recognitions, projects, etc.),
  •  Assembling teams for planning sessions or to discuss overall health of the organization,
  • Writing down and share goals to highlight their importance and permanence,
  • Celebrating when goals are accomplished.

Goals may be set on an annual basis, but regular review meetings need to happen much more frequently. We recommend adding these meetings to your company and/or departmental calendars right away to prioritize review of your goals and milestones. Once a year is not enough.

Conclusion

An unnerving prospect is to do the hard work of setting SMART goals, getting your team on board, and then realizing your manual methods of tracking fall short. Strategypoint was conceived when our founders saw the need for better systems to align strategy within an organization – beyond the board and senior management – to improve productivity and success for everyone on the team.  

Strategypoint allows users to input goals at every team level from C-Suite to specialist. Unlike static tools used previously, each member of your team is in the driver’s seat of contributing and communicating about strategy and goals in real time.

This level of collaboration means benefits beyond just your bottom line. Research shows that employees who collaborate on the job and who have access to digital collaboration tools are up to 17% more satisfied with their job and workplace culture.

If you currently rely on spreadsheets and emails to gauge bandwidth and strategic progress, then inefficiencies will delay achieving your goals regardless of how much time you’ve invested in setting and defining them.

About Strategypoint

Strategypoint is a simple, flexible, and customizable strategy software. It embraces the fundamental elements of all popular strategy management best practices and lets you use them in the way that works best for you and your team.

Our goal is for you to have the peace of mind that your strategy is world-class and that it is working.

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