Goals and objectives provide direction, inspiration, and a standard for measurement of performance for an organization. Goals define direction or destination while objectives set specific targets or milestones for performance measurement.
In a previous article we defined a strategic management system that began with mission and vision for an organization built upon core values and principles. The management system then defined a process for driving action plans that would achieve the vision. While vision is a long-term view of what we want the organization to someday become, goals and objectives set targets within the planning horizon along the path towards the organization’s vision. Once we establish goals and objectives, they should become a call to action for the organization.
Goals are qualitative statements that set direction into the future. They become the rallying points for the organization to move forward. Since goals set priorities for the organization, we can only have a limited number of them and they must be congruent with each other.
Objectives set the targets or milestones for moving forward. Objectives are quantitative and must always be SMART which means they are –
- Specific – the terms or definition is clear and well understood within the organization
- Measurable – there is an accepted and defined means of quantifying performance
- Achievable – the organization must have the power and authority to take the necessary steps required to achieve the objective
- Relevant – the objective must be a critical target that moves the organization towards its goals and vision
- Time-based – there must be a stated target date for achievement of the objective
There is always the ability to state a definite yes or no as to the achievement of our objectives.
As an example of goals and objectives, let’s imagine an organization where its performance is highly reliant on the skills of its workers. A goal might be “Develop a more capable and stable workforce.” One of the supporting objectives might then be “Reduce annual non-retirement turnover to less than 8% of the total workforce by January of 2020.”
As we step through the management system from mission to action, each step gets more specific towards defining the critical action steps that must be taken to move the organization forward. Without clear goals and objectives, we have no way to judge the value of our actions.
Does your organization have clear goals and objectives? Do they align with your vision and prompt appropriate action?