Making Goals Really Matter and Work
Goals are critical measurements of accomplishment, progress, and success. However, how goals are created is a situation often rife with issues and challenges – especially when the goals are made up, or disconnected from a well-understood and sensible foundation.
Too many organizations have goals that are untethered to anything besides some percentage of growth, or dollars of improvement, or some other desire or wishful thinking. They are made up, and lack a foundation of connection and explanation.
If your goals are to be meaningful and useful measurements of success, they must be connected to even greater criteria for success. What is more important than your goals? It has to be the fulfillment of your mission, and the achievement of your vision. These are the two elements that provide even greater clarity, focus, and impact than even your goals.
What happens when these are not clear?
Goals are the markers that measure the accomplishment of what is most important to achieve for the success of your organization, in a given period of time. To be most successful, you must have clear criteria as to why you are focusing on some goal as being most important. Furthermore, it is critical to be able to explain why these goals are the best choice of what is most important. Otherwise, you leave your organization wondering why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Failure to have a compelling, well explained, and well-understood rationale for your goals renders them, in the eyes of your people, as the made up aspiration of some senior executive. That fails to gain the kind of engagement, ambition, and commitment that the greatest accomplishments and success require.
Do this extremely short and simple exercise yourself and with your team to understand exactly how profound that can be (really – try this, and you will see clearly what I mean):
Exercise: Raise your hand as high as you can.
Did you do that?
Now raise it higher.
Do you realize what happened? Consistent with this exercise, what you’ll find is that even if someone is willing to comply with your request – and goals are your request for accomplishment to your organization – you never get 100% commitment until they know why you’re asking them to do something.
This simple example should give you a very strong indication of the validity of this powerful quote: “The person with a powerful enough why can endure any what.”
Once you’re clear about your vision and mission, the simple question to ask is: what are the best measurements of accomplishment of our mission and vision? With clear vision and mission – truly the most challenging aspect of strategic planning and alignment – the simplicity, coherence, and clarity of defining goals and strategies flows with very little effort.
When you find yourself and your team spending too much time and effort on your goals and your strategies – or if these seem like a difficult set of decisions – the culprit is almost always a lack of clarity and coherence with your vision and mission.