If you uncover the true definition of the word “goal”, you’ll find that it’s “an observable and measurable result which is linked to the objectives that a business wants to achieve inside a given time frame”.
Of course, you can’t truly achieve your goals without first having a plan – the two go hand in hand. Plans and goals make up the DNA of the strategic planning process. Looking at the diagram below, you can see how planning and goal setting fits together across the different managerial levels of a business.
Planning leads to goal attainment and ultimately to the overall effectiveness and performance of the business, the departments and all team members.
The Benefits of Goals
While having clear goals increases performance, they also help clarify expectations. They provide team members with a clear understanding of the desired outcomes for the business. Without goals, members of the team will lack direction and this has a major impact on the business overall. People don’t know what they have to achieve, when they must achieve it by or why it is important. Even though everyone might be working hard, collectively they will accomplish little. Think about it this way, if the team were in a boat rowing, and each member was rowing in a different direction, they would achieve little result and certainly no real progress.
Goals also play another critical role in a business – they increase motivation. When individuals and teams meet their goals, they feel a sense of accomplishment, a pride in knowing that their achievements have produced real results and benefits for all.
Follow a Goal Setting Process
Achieving success will depend on how well you plan in the early stages. Research shows that adopting the SMART theory will lead you to success.
Specific – to be effective you must ensure that your goals are specific. You should ensure that each goal is clearly relevant to your department’s business plan. There is little benefit in setting a goal which does not provide you with a specific outcome or result. You could strive hard to achieve this goal, only to realise that there was no real point to it in the first place.
Measurable – it is often said what does not get measured does not get better. How true this statement is. Goals should be tangible and also clearly provide evidence for team members to assess their progress and show them that they are on the right path in achieving these. You will also find that there will be smaller internal measures that can be tracked inside the goals that lead to your overall success.
Achievable – goal setting will always work best when the goals are attainable. Goals should be achievable, but they should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged. Knowing and utilising your skills and knowledge is critical in defining your goal.
Relevant – this is where the planning process comes into play. It is important that the goals are relevant to the strategic plan of the agency and/or department. Goals should be measured by the desired outcome and not just activities needed to accomplish them.
Time framed – goals should be linked to a timeframe. The importance of this is to create a practical sense of urgency around the objective. By setting a time frame, you set your unconscious mind into motion. This is the “when by” part of the process. Without a time frame, the goal is unlikely to produce the relevant outcome, or even be achieved at all.
Goals and Facilitating Performance
A key component in this area is that we must truly understand how goals and people work together. Yes, goals will facilitate performance, but only when the right components come together. You must ensure that a person tasked with a specific goal has the right skills, knowledge and ability to complete it. You simply cannot expect someone without the required skills to achieve a successful outcome. Feedback and opportunities for people to ask questions during the process is important and this enables people to gain a clearer understanding of the desired result while reassuring them they are supported. If your team members are simply left to try and figure things out alone, they’ll become demotivated and less likely to engage. Quite often, they will just give up.
Part of the journey is known as “Goal Commitment”. This is a person’s attachment to or determination to reach the goal. When people believe that they can reach their goals and are provided with the training, support, guidance and recognition to help them toward the achievement, they become empowered in the whole process. This leads not only to a final successful outcome, but also gives the whole team or individual member a sense of accomplishment and personal pride on a job well done.
Setting goals will provide a business with many benefits. When people have a goal, they have a sense of purpose. This leads to an increases in motivation, productivity and also morale. When your people feel that the tasks they are completing and their actions make a difference within the company, they want be a part of the road to further accomplishment.