“You need to set goals.” In business and in life we’ve all heard those words. It is hard to argue with the advice. It seems so simple. Yet for all the talk of goal setting, how effective is it really?
Setting goals is an important aspect of the strategic planning process. But it is part of a process, not the ends and means unto itself.
Several years ago, the CEO of a multibillion-dollar publicly traded company hired me to help revive the business. As he said to me, “Kevin, we need a crusade. Something we can believe in that’s bigger than our day to day.”
During my on-site time at the company headquarters, I met with the Director of Worldwide Strategy. In gathering initial information, I asked this question: “What are your income and profit goals for this year?”
That’s normally not a challenging question. Except he met with, “We don’t have any goals like that.” This was a stunning revelation to me. How could they not have financial goals?
There’s a very real place for setting goals within the context of a strategic planning process. In my client’s case, it had me wondering just what the heck the Director of Worldwide Strategy was doing. He wasn’t happy to see me show up in the first place and now this question ensured his sabotage of my engagement was in the works. And in the world of corporate politics, he won!
Setting goals in a new fiscal year is commonplace in most work settings.
It is the natural time of the year for reflection and planning so the new year can be better than the previous year. There’s a reason why, however, all those good intentions often fail to live up to expectations. Business can’t be run by numbers alone. Metrics have a role, but they’re the result of a strategic process, not the lead.
This form of “Management By Objectives” was made popular in the 1970s. However well intended it was, the execution of it fell to a minimalist “numbers only” approach. Unfortunately, that is an indication of under-performing management.
Goal setting—everyone uses it, right?
You know the routine. You show up at an organizational retreat for work, church, the PTA, a ministry, or some other group. After the introductions, the person with the agenda says it is time to set goals.
Suddenly a knot appears in your stomach. Something about this doesn’t feel just right. You go with it because goal setting seems so right … and yet so wrong. After an hour or so, the team comes up with a list of goals and everyone goes home satisfied that a great deal was accomplished. And it has, but you have this gnawing feeling that very little is really going to happen next.
Why, you wonder, is it so unsatisfactory? Why is the group so excited, yet you’re so worried? You understand that goals without a plan are merely imaginary—but still better than no goals at all! Regardless of whether the organization is falling short or falling flat on its face, it is failing to complete the strategic process. That means that someone in charge doesn’t really know what it means to lead an organization. Uh-oh—Killer Goals of the worst kind.
There are Good Killer Goals!
Here’s an example from when we were in active production of The On-Purpose Minutes. Our killer goal was to produce and post an original On-Purpose Minute every Tuesday and an On-Purpose Business Minute every Thursday.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Hold on for an On-Purpose Minute! Consider the creative thinking, planning, equipping, and many disciplines needed to meet this simple “killer goal.” I invested nearly a year in researching, experimenting, and learning what camera, lighting, and editing software to use. In the end, the technical and production stuff actually becomes the easy part.
The concepts and brand of the On-Purpose Minutes had to be conceived, developed, and tied to the business strategy of On-Purpose®. An audience to reach had to be in mind. Finally, the content for each On-Purpose Minute had to be conceived, written, recorded, edited, posted, and embedded using YouTube.com and my blogging service.
Here’s one example where a Killer Goal with a clear purpose, plan, people, and process to support performance produced a video library of over 200 Minutes.
Goals Alone Are Laziness
Take your leadership and management duties seriously so your team can thrive and exceed at the stated goals. Learn to think more deeply about the breadth and depth of the assignment.
The more you can talk about and plan early on, the better things will go for all involved.
Avoid setting Killer Goals that only kill the team.
Learn that the slow path to achieving your goals is almost always the sustainable and more profitable fast track for reaching your Killer Goals.