Setting Measurable Goals Is Critical to Your Strategic Plan (and Your Success). Here’s Why.
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As an entrepreneur or business leader, there are myriad reasons why you should care about goals: They help lead you in the right direction for your vision; they motivate teams and hold them accountable; they help leaders make decisions, clarify priorities and eliminate day-to-day distractions.
But most importantly, the measurement of goals will help you track progress and explain the direction of your business to funders and other opportunities for financial capital — and the best way to do this is to include goals in your strategic plan.
A strategic plan captures and communicates your goals to various audiences. The strategic planning process includes a document that summarizes your vision for the future of your organization and lists the goals and objectives to reach that vision. This process will not only help you achieve your goals, but also increase organizational capacity, generate more revenue, and make you financially secure. Here’s how you can do it right.
A common challenge with goals
You’ve likely been hearing about goals since you were a kid. Your teachers, counselors, coaches and bosses have likely taught you about goals and promoted them to you.
As a result of all of the different inputs, you have likely learned different definitions of goals. I’m quite certain that you’d get many different answers if you asked your team members to define a goal. That’s a problem. One of the obstacles to strategic planning success that I often encounter is the differing goals that team members define. Your team members may have different goals definitions, which can lead to different approaches and goals.
So let’s get everyone on your team on the same page with a common definition of a goal.
I take my goal-defining guidance from the world of sports. In soccer, for example, a goal happens when the ball crosses over the goal line. In hockey, a goal is scored when the puck crosses the line. There are many other sports that provide clear examples of when a goal is scored. Using this concept leads me to the following definition of a goal: A specific and measurable achievement.
Related: A Guide to Goal Setting
How to write strong goals
You may be familiar with the well-known SMART mnemonic acronym for writing goals:
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Accountable
- R: Relevant
- T: Time-bound
Over the years, I’ve found the SMART acronym to be quite useful. The SMART acronym has specific and measurable elements. This is what I have defined.
Most of the time, the letter “A” in the acronym means either “achievable”, or “attainable”. Although that is possible, I believe “accountable” or even “assignable” is more powerful. All too often, I see teams create goals that don’t have people identified as being accountable to them. The goals are often not completed.
The “R” in “relevant” should refer to your goal. It should take you in the direction a long-term vision.
Another thing I like is to add a goal topic to the beginning goals of a strategic plan. It helps readers get a sense of the goal’s purpose. I would use the goal topic “staff engagement” to set a goal for a specific score in a staff survey. “
When developing your goals for your strategic plan, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it specific?
- Is it measurable?
- Does it have accountability?
- Is it relevant?
- Is it time-bound?
You’ll know you’ve got the right goals for your plan when the answer to each of those questions is “yes. “
Goal guidance for your strategic plan
There are two different types of goals that you can develop for your strategic plan: results goals and process goals. When a specific metric is met, results goals are achieved. A process goal is the completion of a plan or process.
You may be curious about how to measure process goals. Once you have a documented process, those goals are complete. It’s not a number but it’s still a tangible achievement.
This leads me to a very important piece. I noticed that the organizations I worked with were able to achieve strategic planning success a lot more often than others. In other words, they created and achieved goals that helped them develop capacity-building processes. If you want to make the changes you desire, you should include process goals in your strategic planning.
I recommend having goals on your strategic plan that are organization-wide that have a completion timeline of several weeks to one year. You can also list actions items, which are the smaller tasks that go towards achieving the larger goals. This will take less time.
In summary, it is important that your team has a common approach when writing strategic goals. This guidance will help your company to create a solid strategic plan and achieve greater success.