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Effective Corporate Goal-Setting

by Sophie Johnson

Achieving goals takes resolution, sometimes great resolution. In a business, once a goal is set, managers must create and implement plans to reach it, properly deploy resources to support it, keep an eye on its progress, and, besides all that, find ways to inspire employees to act and keep acting. To muster such devotion to a vision, the goals themselves must be effective. Fortunately, effective goals share certain characteristics. By setting goals that possess these traits, managers can bolster the likelihood that the future will see a goal successfully achieved.

Is Aligned with Larger Aims

It’s easy to imagine the wince-worthy discord that would erupt if an orchestra’s musicians began playing different songs. Instead, a conductor leads players through the same music, and, though different instrumental sections play different parts, it all works together to capture a musical vision. Similarly, to achieve something noteworthy, different company factions must work in harmony toward the same end. Ultimately, this end is the company’s mission and vision. All goals must serve these: the long-term vision of achievement set by company leaders, and the mission that gives an organization its central purpose.

Is Explicit

Goals must be specific. The language must refer to a particular, concrete achievement that requires no assumptions and leaves no room for interpretation. “Top of the industry,” for instance, can mean different things to different people. It also leaves room to hedge. A company might be top in customer service, sales or safety record. Everyone should understand exactly what a goal means so all efforts lead to the same place. Unified efforts are especially required for the boldest goals.

Answers the Question of When

Planning requires time frames. Think, for instance, of what a procrastinator would achieve if you removed the incentive of a deadline. Goals involving an entire company require three or more years. These speak to a company’s deepest aspirations. A theme park setting such goals might decide to become the world’s top tourist destination within a decade. To fulfill such lofty aspirations, middle management sets goals with deadlines of one to three years, aiming to vanquish competitors and attract business. The everyday activities that march a company forward require even less time, from a day to a year.

Includes Something to Measure

Effective goals demand numbers. For instance, instead of “Increase efficiency,” say, “Increase efficiency by 20 percent.” Including such numbers not only improves the aim’s specificity, it gives all employees a way to know when they’ve succeeded and, in the meantime, measure progress toward the goal. Once the goal’s deadline has passed, the numbers allow managers to measure the extent of achievement or failure.

Demands Supporting Plans

The best goals cannot be achieved without allocating time, employees and company resources in support of them. Commit to deploying these, deciding who will be accountable, who will take charge of communications if more than one employee is involved, and any incentives and rewards. Set a schedule to check progress and refine goals as circumstances and results dictate, and write it all down.

References

About the Author

Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images