Goal Setting – A Step-by-Step Process

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The person in the chair next to me was young and ambitious. In his short time in the organization, he had shown great potential and I knew he would go far. So, I was surprised at his answer when I asked what his goals were for the next few years. He paused, then admitted he hadn’t given it much thought.

It isn’t difficult to set good goals; but, whether for an individual or a large corporation, a few essential steps must be followed.

Setting Goals is NOT the First Step
To begin, it’s important to remember that setting goals is not the first step! There must be a solid foundation which begins with a detailed understanding of why the organization exists and what it does. Once the why and what is determined, it’s essential to review the values by which the organization operates. Goals which are incompatible with values will create a severe conflict. Only on a solid foundation can the rest of the organizational structure be built.

Once the why and what of the organization, and its values are defined, leaders can determine the appropriate goals to move them forward. When discussing goals, different experts use different words so I’ll define my terms. Goals are desired outcomes, while objectives are the means to accomplish the goals. Remember, goals must be realistic, (within the capabilities of the organization) reasonable, (something that can be achieved with a rational expenditure of resources) and measurable.

Unless the goals are personal or for a one-person enterprise, goal setting should not be done in a vacuum. Rather, a team composed of leaders from each part of the organization, should collaborate to ensure the goals are appropriate. After all, these are the people who will be responsible for goal accomplishment.

What Are Good Goals?
So, what are good goals? Goals must be challenging. If your goals will only maintain the status quo, don’t bother setting goals. Look to the future and be ambitious! Where do you want to be 1, 2, and 5 years in the future. What will make your business truly excel? A good goal should stretch the organization, within the rule of realistic, reasonable and measureable.

After goals are determined, the next step is to define objectives. These are the steps necessary to accomplish the goal. They will be more detailed than goals but must also be realistic, reasonable, and achievable. The leadership team should begin to identify objectives, but more importantly, they will identify a team member who will be responsible for the goal. That person will meet with his or her own subordinates and determine the best way to approach goal accomplishment. This discussion will lead to a better set of objectives.

You’ve identified ambitious goals, assigned a responsible leader and flushed out the necessary objectives. Now what? There are two more steps. First, communicate! It’s critical for everyone in the organization to know how they affect goal accomplishment. When employees feel a vital part of accomplishing something and feel the organization needs and values their input, they will be more engaged and produce better results.

Follow up
Next, follow up. It’s vital for goals to be kept alive by senior leadership. That means keeping track of progress. While tracking goals shouldn’t become a full time job, it is vitally important. When a goal is achieved, celebrate. Don’t be silly about it, but let everyone know it’s a milestone and make sure the proper people get the credit. Another part of follow-up is to review the whole plan. Even though businesses often operate on a 5-year plan, goals must be reviewed annually. The world constantly changes and an annual review will ensure goals stay relevant.

Without solid goals, a person or business is just hoping not to fail. Use these steps to set ambitious goals that lead to success!

About the author
Bob Mason is a speaker, trainer and author of “Planning to Excel: Strategic Planning That Works.” See how he can help you excel at www.planleadexcel.com

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