With New Year’s resolutions on the mind, it is also a good time to start thinking about your business objectives for the year. As we know, setting goals is the key to success. A recent study found that goal setting improves worker performance by 12 to 15% compared to the situation where no goals were defined. Yet, according to Harvard University, 83% of Americans do not have goals, and fewer than 5% have written goals. With these numbers, it is no wonder that the majority of businesses fail to achieve their strategic objectives.
January is an excellent time to reevaluate the current state of your business, assess the pitfalls and opportunities, and create strategic deliverables for the year ahead. Goals serve as a roadmap for your business, and you can’t make progress if you don’t know where you’re going. A clear set of strategic goals with quantifiable objectives and measurable results will help your organization succeed. By establishing concrete markers that you can track, like increased numbers, financial figures, or improved productivity rates, you can determine how and where a team’s energy and resources should be spent.
This process can be incredibly challenging and creating thoughtful goals can feel rather daunting. Where do you get started and how do you decide which objectives to pursue? An experienced coach can help you think through your goals strategically. In the meantime, consider the following tips:
Typically, business goals fall into short-, medium- and long-term timelines. Perhaps you have already set up your long-term goals that will take 3 to 5 years to accomplish? Now is your time to assess where you are in achieving those goals and create this year’s task list that will keep you on track as you move through the year. Start with your long-term goal and work backwards, setting up yearly objectives, and creating a list of smaller goals that fit into quarterly, monthly and even weekly objectives. From here, you might even find there are daily sub-goals. These small, digestible tasks will keep yourself and employees organized, and create a feeling of accomplishment along the way. Ultimately, a well-developed list will keep you motivated, focused, and help you stay on track as you work toward your larger goals.
The most important thing in creating effective strategic objectives is to make sure they align with the values of your company. Essentially, your goals should be measurable results indicative of your long-term vision. This is your opportunity to get people working together and facing in the same direction. Creating goals that do not sync with your values or beliefs can result in a lack of passion or motivation from your team. Determine what’s most important for your industry and your specific strategy, then build a set of goals that best represents your company.
A long list of goals can be dizzying, and without structure, it can appear overwhelming. After your initial list is created, you will want to prioritize the goals to create a concrete action plan. One thing to consider is the anticipated ROI of each goal. Determining the amount of effort versus the amount of return will help you decide which goals to pursue first. Also consider any barriers that might affect your goals at certain times of the year, such as current events and other outside influences that could impact your ability to accomplish that particular goal at that specific time.
When approaching the planning process, a helpful tool is the S.M.A.R.T strategy, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainment, Relevant, Timely. The SMART method allows you to create thoughtful, relevant and actionable goals that will keep you organized and on track.
Specific: Create goals with measurable results rather than overarching ideas. Well-defined and unambiguous, goals should answer the 5 W’s (what, when, where, why, and who). It is not enough to say, “I want to increase my revenue this year.” Rather, you need to define clear objectives, “I want to increase my revenue by 25% this year.” This will give you a solid launch pad and clear idea of where to get started.
Measurable: Concrete goals are ones that you can measure and track, such as “increase sales” rather than “I want to have the best website.” Putting measurable goals in writing will help keep you focused and allow you to see the progress you’ve made at the end of the defined time period.
Attainable: Goals should be challenging but achievable. Unrealistic goals can create tension, frustration and ultimately failure. You will be more likely to succeed when your goal is obtainable, and you have the tools to accomplish it.
Realistic: Consider the resources and timeframe you wish to accomplish your goal and make sure that you believe it can be accomplished. Be honest with yourself what you and your team are capable of completing.
Timely: Make sure your goals have a time limit. This will keep you on track and moving forward at the cadence necessary to achieve the goal by a set time. If there is no time constraint, there will be no sense of urgency and therefore less motivation to achieve the goals.
Whether you’re a small business or a large organization, you will set yourself up for success by creating a detailed plan and sticking to it. Assign time in your schedule weekly, monthly and quarterly to review both short term goals and your progress toward the annual goal. This will allow you to see what you’ve accomplished, where you need to focus your attention, and whether you’re on track. Remember to stay nimble. If progress slows or you run into a barrier, be ready to change directions. Avoid rigidity or getting stuck, which can hurt you more than if you miss a goal. Ultimately, it’s always important to celebrate your successes. Not only does it allow you to recognize the effort that went into accomplishing the goal, but it allows you to get closure on each stage and come back with renewed focus.
Some company’s strategic plans have simple goals and tactics, while others are more complicated and involve multiple layers. Consider the level of accountability you’re aiming for, the timeframe for completing your goals, and what your organization’s culture is like. If you find you need help, whether it’s getting organized out of the gates or looking for an assessment and gentle push midway, a business coach can help immensely. Whatever method you choose, the most important part is putting the plan in place and committing to it.