The creation of meaningful business goals is an important activity in every organization. Too often, goals are poorly crafted and fail to lead to the achievement of the intended results.

Properly created goals should cascade from the organization’s strategic plan, business unit goals and / or from departmental goals. Typically, as goals flow downward they move from a broader focus to an individual’s specific accountabilities. After the top-lines goals are identified, the next level down has to translate these goals into sub-objectives that at meaningful to employees at each successive level. When objective setting is completed for the year, the goals created at the individual level should fully support the goals of the next level up. Depending on the number of levels, this hierarchical objective structure should be consistent up through the strategic goals of the organization

Properly established goals provide a roadmap for organizational success and move the organization and its workforce toward meaningful accomplishments. Typically, goals form the basis of professional and management employees’ performance reviews.

Planning to Write Goals

There are three components that make up well-written goals. Each of these components has a different purpose, but they work together in a collaborative fashion.

The “what” is the objective itself, which defines its purpose and scope.

The “why” is the set of benefits to be gained, which explains the motivation for accomplishment.

The “when” is the roadmap that provides direction and achievement markers.

Well-written goals will address each of these components and ensure that there is alignment with the top-level goals of the organization. For each potential objective, it will be helpful to think through these components before committing them to writing.

Objective Subject Matter

The subject matter or topics for goals are typically formulated around Products, Processes, People, Performance and / or Profits. We think of these as the “5 Ps”. When creating goals, they will involve action around changing, improving, fixing, increasing or enhancing one of the following:

Products – goods and services provided.

Processes – Policies, procedures, methodologies and equipment which is used to produce products or administer the organization.

People – Employees, Customers and / or Clients.

Performance – The quality and quantity of individual and / or organizational output.

Profits – The revenue and financial goals of the organization, business unit or department.

Writing SMART Goals

After the Objective components (what, why and when) and subject matter (5 Ps) have been identified on a broader level, the actual specifics of each objective can be written. The SMART acronym provides a simple (yet powerful) method for writing meaningful goals. When writing goals, the SMART criteria should be included in each final objective.

S – Specific
Goals need to be specific in order to define the overall effort and tasks involved. Ambiguous goals only lead to ambiguous results! Goals should provide the answers to the following questions:

Who is involved?
What needs to be accomplished?
Where will it be accomplished?
When should it be accomplished?
What conditions need to be met?

M – Measurable
Goals need to have concrete metrics for gauging progress and evaluating performance. This helps employees stay on track and reach their targets. Progress point measurements might also be included into the goals. By successfully reaching progress points, a cycle is created that provides added motivation to put forth the continued effort toward reaching the final destination.

A – Attainable
Goals need to stretch and challenge current capabilities, but they must be attainable. Goals that are perceived to be unreachable will lead to frustration. Employees may feel “what’s the use in trying – it can’t be done.” Attainable does not mean easy. Often goals that might seem overwhelming can become more manageable if they can be broken out into attainable steps.

R –Realistic
Like unattainable, unrealistic goals will lead to negative experience and frustration. Often personal and situational factors influence the ability to reach objectives. These should be considered when defining the objective to be certain that an objective can be achieved. Goals that involve steep learning curves should also be avoided unless there is adequate time to come up to speed. The bar should be set high enough for satisfying outcomes and to encourage a positive cycle of achievement.

T – Time bound
At a minimum, starting and end points should be written into every objective. Day-to-day crises and other priorities will quickly supersede goals without timelines or schedules. Timelines and deadlines create a powerful and necessary sense of urgency to take action. Goals with long time spans should be broken out into attainable steps with progress check points.

Examples of Goals

When writing an objective, clear and specific language is recommended. Always start out with a VERB and use the SMART criteria. Avoid using negative language and always think positive.

Example 1 – Run the Mini-Marathon.

“Run the mini-marathon on May 4th 2009 and complete the race in 58:14 minutes/seconds to beat my personal best time.”

You will note how the above example begins with the verb “run” and tells “what” (the mini-marathon), “why” (to beat my personal best time) and “when” (May 2009). This is a well-written objective.

Example 2 – Computer Upgrades

“Install the 5X computer upgrades.”

While the above example begins with a verb “Install” and tells “what” (5X computer upgrades), it fails to provide a “why” or “when”. This is not a valid or complete objective and has room for improvement.

Example 3 – Computer Upgrades

“Install the 5x computer upgrade and test each installation to ensure that the new software runs properly. Installation should be completed in Corporate by February 28th, West Region by March 30th, and East Region by April 30th.”

This example starts with the verb “Install”, tells the “what” (install the 5x upgrade and test), “why” (to ensure the new software runs properly) and “when” (various dates). It also contains mileposts for successful performance. This is an example of a well-written objective.

Obstacles & Solutions

After the creation of well-written goals using the SMART criteria, there are a couple of other considerations which will help ensure that the objectives will be accomplished.

It is very helpful to list out all the “Potential Obstacles” to achieving each objective and for each obstacle identify a “Potential Solution”. There are all kinds of factors that can challenge successful results. Changing workforce requirements, increased workloads, competing priorities, availability of resources, the troubled economy and new laws and regulations are only a few of the factors that might present roadblocks.

For each potential obstacle, a clearly crafted solution should be evaluated. While some of these obstacles may never materialize, planning for them in advance will help ensure resolution if they should they become reality.

Ensuring Buy-In

Writing Goals down will help you achieve your goals quicker, watch this video and complete my goal setting steps and you are on the verge of achieving all the goals you set! HAPPY GOAL SETTINGLast but not least, individuals needed to help employees achieve their goals should be identified early on. Gaining peer, subordinate and or supervisor support may be part of the objective or it may be an important by-product. In any case, the earlier these people are engaged in the objective process, the greater the likelihood of success.

The easiest way to establish buy-in is to allow participation in the objective setting process. Participation helps (but does not guarantee) that the objective will be accomplished. There is a greater likelihood that people will support a process or objective that they have had input in creating.

Additionally, when people know “what’s in it for them” there tends to be support and commitment. Those that need to support the objective or those impacted by it, should feel (if possible) that they have a stake in successful achievement.

And then I'll show you how to take action and begin your journey towards a more enjoyable and profitable future.

You'll be amazed at the difference it makes to be goal-oriented...

- You'll have more energy -

 - You'll have more fun -

 - And you'll make a lot more money -