When was the last time you set goals for your business?
When you first set up your business?
At the start of the financial year?
If you want to think strategically and grow your business in newer, more profitable directions; you need to set goals.
Goals provide direction and motivation, and make it easier to measure progress. Without goals, you will be stuck in a short-term execution mindset where you will be constantly putting out fires without really establishing a long-term direction for your business.
So, if you want to think long-term success, you need to think goals!
To set the right goals for your business and go from where you are to where you want to be, check out our 10 tips below!
BEFORE SETTING GOALS
- Do a SWOT analysis
A lot of businesses directly jump into goal-setting for the future before first understanding their current realities.
A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis will help you understand your organisation better. It will also help you review your past performance, and identify the factors that affect it now and may affect it in future. Finally, it will help you think through your strategic challenges and opportunities before you set targets to address these challenges and take advantage of these opportunities.
And while you’re at it, do a market analysis to see where your industry is headed. Also do some competitive benchmarking to compare your organisation’s performance with competitors, as well as the performance across different areas of your organisation.
- Check your vision and mission
Every goal you set must be aligned with your organisation’s mission and vision. This will ensure that each goal is oriented towards the long-term, and not just something you’re thinking about right now.
There’s no point setting a goal that’s out of sync with your current mission and long-term vision. If you do, you will only cause confusion among your stakeholders and make it less likely that you will achieve the goal.
- Be SMART
The SMART technique is so popular for goal-setting because it really works.
The more Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Measurable and Timely your goals are, the easier you will find it to identify the right steps you need to take to achieve them. This will increase your probability of achieving your goals in the desired time limit.
Also, be as descriptive as you can because more clarity means more success! If other people will be involved in the goal-achieving process, they need to be on the same page as you. You may understand perfectly what ‘grow our customer base’ means, but your people may not. Therefore it’s always better to set a goal like ‘grow our customer base in Europe by 15% by the end of next quarter.’
- Break it down
In project management, there is a term called ‘Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)’. A WBS refers to the breakdown of a project into smaller, more-manageable components.
The same principle applies to goal-setting as well.
If a goal you’ve set is too big or complex, break it down into more manageable sub-goals. Treat the goal as a project that involves multiple smaller projects, resources, milestones and deadlines. Apply target dates for each component and an overall target date for the goal as a whole.
- Check if your goals are congruent with each other
Sometimes, your goals may interfere with or even contradict each other. For example, if one of your goals is to have 100% customer satisfaction, you may have to improve your customer support processes. But if your other goal is to increase profits by 30%, your investment in training for your customer support staff may not allow you to achieve it.
Which goal is more important? Which one can you compromise on? Find these answers before you finalise the goals or communicate them across the organisation.
- Identify resources and assign responsibility
Identify who will be accountable for each goal and assign responsibilities accordingly.
Who is in charge of executing the actions required to meet the goal?
Who will keep track of progress, challenges and opportunities?
Who will publish reports? To whom?
Who will manage scope creep or time delays?
US president Harry S. Truman had a sign on his desk that said, ‘The buck stops here’. When it comes to goal-setting, there should be no place or tolerance for buck-passing. And that’s why assigning responsibility for a goal is so important.
- Ask for inputs and brainstorm possibilities
In a lot of organisations, goal-setting is the responsibility of senior leadership. While this is not necessarily a wrong practice, not involving people at other levels in the process can lead to a lot of missed opportunities for improvement and growth.
Solicit honest inputs from your employees to get insights from the ‘ground floor’. And once you do, be open to actually using this feedback. Otherwise employees will be less likely to offer up their honest opinions in the future.
AFTER SETTING GOALS
- Check progress
Just like a project manager is responsible for ensuring that the project progresses within its constraints, you too should check your goal’s progress and ensure that it is progressing as it should. If necessary, set up regularly meetings of the people involved in setting and/or achieving the goal. This ensures that everyone stays on-point no matter how much time goes by. And don’t be afraid to make adjustments as and when required.
- Keep the lines of communication open
Often, an organisation sets goals but does not communicate them properly to the people actually tasked with achieving the goals.
Does everyone in your organisation understand the goals and why you selected them?
Every department, line manager and individual should understand the goals and how their performance can impact them. They should be clear on the value of their work in achieving the goal. They should also know how their mistakes can have a negative effect on the goal. Again, clarity is very important.
- Measure your goals
If your goal is SMART, measuring its progress and impact will not be difficult. Identify and set Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for each goal. Make sure you have and use the right data to make useful measurements.
The process of setting goals for a business can be challenging, frustrating and confusing. But it’s totally worth it!
And when your organisation achieves a goal (and you will with our 10 tips!), acknowledge it and celebrate the ‘win’. This will ensure that everyone involved will feel motivated and appreciated, and make even more valuable contributions for future goals!
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Lion Amir Virani