Got Goals? If You Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Get There.

By: William A. Spenla, Managing Director and Founder,

P4 Advisors

We have plenty of experience working with organizations that set solid annual organizational objectives (or goals) and then work diligently to get them understood, connected to, and owned by everyone within the organization.  The reason this is so powerful is that people know what they are supposed to do and where they are going.  These organizations generally outperform their competition because the human system is immersed in a broad-based plan of action and everyone’s contributions – and their discretionary effort – are pointed toward achieving the goals established by the leadership. 

There is no magic formula to setting goals but it is critically important to an enterprise that goals be established.  If not done well, you can expect to see plenty of action and activities, and not the performance and results that could otherwise be achieved.  Yes, setting goals does take time and perseverance.  And yes, it is a much less costly process than the expense incurred as a result of under-performance and failure because the goal setting process is done poorly, or not at all.  At P4 Advisors, we get this.  And we help our clients to fully understand the importance of goal setting and how to do it well at the organizational and individual levels.

The performance management process begins with the establishment of organizational goals set by leadership to identify what the enterprise is trying to achieve.  They should be prioritized, clear and precise, and describe the critical work required for business success.  Following this essential leadership action, everyone then has the individual responsibility to set their individual goals (or IG’s) to align with the business goals.  We suggest employees initiate IG’s for their manager’s approval, i.e., 3-5 goals, prioritized.  Having a stake early on in the process helps to facilitate the mutual understanding of expectations during the performance period.  So let’s take a summary look at some IG setting “basics.”

Define what a goal is so that everyone works off the same meaning and framework when constructing their IG’s.  For Example:

Goals ARE: Business objectives for employees; The What, Why, How, and When; SMART.

Goals ARE NOT: A job description; Overly detailed; Impossible to meet.

Goals DO: Cascade through and connect up; Leave room for initiative and creativity.

Goals DO NOT: Exist in a vacuum; Limit contribution.

Goals SHOULD: Allow for personal growth; Be realistic and challenging; Be energizing.

Goals SHOUD NOT: Inhibit personal growth; Be impossible; Be demoralizing.

They should be clearly defined and measureable, but not rigid.  IG’s are in essence individual performance objectives that are consistent with and support the organization’s goals.  They should also include personal and professional development and growth objectives – with a stretch – aimed at improving business results.

IG’s should align directly with the goals of the organization at large, the business and functional units, and the direct (and matrix) manager.  So, as mentioned, let’s be SMART on goal writing and use the SMART template:

SPECIFIC – describe the observable action, behavior, or achievement. 

MEASURABLE – indicate how you will measure success in accomplishing your goals.

ACHIEVABLE – provide enough practical stretch for achievement.

RESULTS FOCUSED – define the purpose or benefit of goal accomplishment.

TIME BOUND – develop a practical timeline with urgency.

Stretch is often not understood when it comes to writing goals, yet this aspect of goal writing is one of the most important since it reflects your ability to continuously grow in sync with the growth of the business.  Stretch would include the following:

  • Working in new ways, such as with a regional or global team;
  • Using your personal influence more broadly;
  • Taking on visible projects that are optional and worthwhile;
  • Learning a new language in sync with your development plan.

And you’ll want to use action-oriented, strong words in your goal descriptions, such as develop, improve, produce, and generate.  And avoid words such as try, strive, pursue, and nurture. 

Here are some examples of effective goal writing for you to consider:

  • Increase the quality performance of my team through a 15% reduction in rework by the end of the second quarter.
  • Generate 10 new clients that will produce an increase in sales performance by 25% YOY. 
  • By year-end, identify, adopt, introduce and implement a new simplified and effective performance management system that links pay directly to performance, eliminates wasteful energy, and is owned by the line organization.
  • Lead my team in creating 2 new products that will generate $50,000.00 each in sales volume by year-end and add $10,000 to the annual bonus pool.

Goal setting summary…Take ownership for writing your goals by securing the needed business information that will connect what you’ll be doing to what the business expects you to do.  Invest adequate time to create effective goals that are meaningful to you, your manager(s), and the business.  Be proactive in scheduling time with your manager to discuss your goals.  Track your progress throughout the performance period.  And document the progress on your goals on a routine basis with your manager(s). 

That’s just some of the basics to goal setting and writing.  Obviously there is much more breadth and depth to doing these things just right in order to set up a win-win for the business and all those contributing to it.  And we’d be pleased to spend a few hours with you walking you through the step-by-step goals setting process we have developed.  Just give us a call and we’d be pleased help you out. 

GOT GOALS?  Then you’ll get there.