Goal setting guide: how to set goals for success

It may be cliché, but there’s a good reason organisations ask their employees, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Setting goals is the key to workplace success, and goal-setting frameworks like OKRs and SMART goals have proven powerful tools in business time and time again.

In this article, we’ll explain why goals are so important for success and how to set effective and measurable goals within your organisation. But first — the basics.

What is a goal?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a goal as an area or object toward which players in various games attempt to advance a ball or puck. In a non-sporting context, the definition remains much the same. 

Put simply, goals are targets that an individual or organisation works toward. They can be big-picture or particular. Ambitious and long-term or immediate and short-term. They can be based on self-improvement, career, money, family and most relevantly — business.

Defining goals within business

Let’s focus on business and organisational goals. A business goal is best described as the result board members, executives, team leads, employees and even interns want to achieve at work. Whether never-ending or day-to-day, they’re essential to driving an organisation forward.

Researches Locke and Latham’s famous Goal Setting Theory suggests that the simple act of goal setting is an essential part of achieving the said goal. Their theory relies on the fact that human behaviour is purposeful and therefore creating a purpose will inspire action. 

On that note, let’s jump into some goal setting foundations.

How to set goals 

From OKRs to KPIs, there’s certainly no shortage of goal-setting techniques. And while there may be many ways of getting there, the goal remains the same: business development. Here are some basic steps to get you started on your goal setting journey.

1. Think broadly

It’s as straightforward as it sounds. To define your goals, simply consider what you want to achieve. A pet grooming business may want more animals in and out of the door, whereas an insurance company may be looking to improve call centre conversions. It’s OK to be broad here — this is just the beginning.

2. Implement the SMART framework

What are the SMART goals? It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. This is where you take your general goals and add specificity into the mix. For example, the goal "generate revenue" isn't specific, so it's difficult to action. Instead, it’s more approachable to make your goals SMART, e.g. "Increase sales by 30% this quarter."

3. Break it down

As mentioned, specificity is key. Divide your ambitious goal into smaller, attainable goals. Rather than worrying about the daunting scope of the project, focus on smaller, more doable tasks.

How to accomplish goals

Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to start smashing them. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. Simply setting goals is pointless unless you’ve got a plan to accomplish them. Here’s a three-step guide to following through.

1. Set deadlines

Deadlines aren’t just for students and journalists. They’re used across all areas of business as a clear indicator of expectations and progress. Deadlines encourage employees to improve their resource management skills,

2. Self-motivate

A pat on the back from your boss is great motivation, but nothing beats the satisfaction of productivity and working toward your goals. To some, self-motivation looks like acknowledging progress and working toward fulfilling goals. To others, it’s sticky notes with “You can do this!” written on them. Whatever works for you is great.

3. Review regularly

Ignoring your goals is like paying for an unused gym membership: unproductive and financially detrimental. Goals need regular attention and review to ensure they’re still serving your needs. Weekly (or more frequent) check-ins allow you to track the progress of your goals and reward productivity.

What are the different types of goals?

There’s a whole wide world of goals out there — and we’re not even counting getting rich or travelling the world. In business, knowing which kinds of goals to set will give you clarity on what you want to achieve and how to get there. Broadly speaking, organisational goals can be broken up into three categories:

  • Business goals
  • Performance goals
  • Development goals 

What are business goals?

Consider business goals the umbrella for all other organisational goals. They shape how long- and short-term goals are set. Business goals tend to be aspirational, driving an organisation toward a certain objective.

Example: Increase market share.

What are performance goals?

Performance goals are short-term, actionable objectives driven by the company's goals. They’re directly tied to the job's responsibilities, linking personal accomplishments to the organisation’s goals. Good performance goals should be measurable. 

Example: Finalise the marketing campaign by November 1.

What are development goals?

Development goals are designed for the professional development of an employee within the company's interests. The benefits are two-fold; development goals allow individuals to advance in their careers and organisations to gain from an empolyee’s upskills.

Example: Improve my time management skills.

How to align individual, team and organisational goals 

Alignment is the key word here. What’s the easiest way to improve visibility in your organisation? The answer is Tability. With an easy-to-use platform like Tability, goals sit in one place and by using the Strategy Map, you can see what every team in the company is working on.

But visibility doesn’t always mean alignment. The OKRs framework allows for a dynamic approach to goal setting, where every department can set autonomous goals that are inherently collaborative. How? By using Aligning OKRs.

In a traditional top-down approach, SMART objectives (Key Results) flow downwards to become the level below's wider goals (Objectives). It’s ineffective because it assumes the original strategy is perfect, and when it’s not, it renders every OKRs trickling down useless. Aligning OKRs ensure each team is working on achieving top-level OKRs first, while empowering them to work more creatively and productively. 

Begin setting better, more aligned goals today with a free trial of Tability.

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Monika Gudova

Content Writer and Editor

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