Designing Goals

Well designed goals are a key strategic differentiator that great organizations, teams and individuals have from others.  How do we design goals that are better than others?

To begin with, we must understand the nature of Goals, and their interdependencies, so that we craft integral sets of goals that lead to success.  As is evident from experience, the only goals that people are likely to work towards purposefully, are the ones they understand, in the way they understand.

Goal Setting Semantics

Goals, Objectives, Targets, KRAs (Key Result Areas), KPAs (Key Performance Areas), are all used differently in different teams, and often much of the debate is simply about smantics.  It is useful to have a common, simple to understand (and remember) interpretation of them as we intend to use the terms.

One meaningful interpretation of the terms and the relationships between them is shown in the structure below:

Goals                                                   ←        (Come from the Vision, Mission of the Organizational Unit)

A.  KRAs                                   ←        (Areas of Interest for a Business, e.g. from the Balanced Score Card)

A.1  Objectives          ←        (Useful purpose, strategic)

A.1.1  Tactical sub-plan/endeavor (Useful action, tactics)                  Target 1                    (Worthwhile achievement)

A.1.2  ….                                                                                                                             Target 2                                    


Goal Matrix

The Goal Matrix is used to align and review goals across different roles in a function, and across all functions to ensure there is parity of goals assigned to roles at the same level, as well as to ensure that every target is worthwhile in working towards the strategic objectives, for every KRA, all of which work towards the Vision and Mission of the organization.

Goal Matrix

Components of the Organization, and their Goals

  1. Top Management – Strategic (Growth)
  2. Structural segments of the Organization – Allow several Degrees of Freedom (Flexibility and Specialization)
  3. Middle Management – Tactical (Improvement)
  4. Executive – Decisions and Actions leading to Quality (Creation of Value to meet Customer needs)

Goals need to be translated down from the top down, ensuring that while the core competencies of role-holders are leveraged, they are also challenged to grow the organization.  Business Development translates work possibilities/competencies to money, Delivery translates money to work/competencies.

Sideways too, goals need to be integrated and aligned across different functions and roles (see Goal Matrix below) within functions so that there is ‘equity’ and ‘parity’ between role-holders, and what they contribute to the bigger, organizational goal.

Articulation of Objectives

The way Objectives are articulated, each objective needs to have the following included in its articulation:

  1. Behavior, performance, direction of endeavor – e.g. Improve, minimize, maximize, reduce, increase, grow, etc.
  2. Condition – the condition(s) under which the endeavor is expected to be undertaken, by default it is in the current scope of the organization.  Also, each objective is to be understood in the context of every other objective in the set.
  3. Qualifier – this is a criterial measure that provides observable visibility of the degree of satisfaction of the objective and relates to the Target
  4. Target – this is the criterial target measure, which if achieved will mean that the objective has been met.

Choice of Objectives

A common confusion in choosing objectives arises from not being clear about whether the chosen objective is a cause or an effect.  The best objectives are ’causes’, and they lead to desired ‘effects’.  Setting the ‘effect’ as an objective hides the real ’causes’ that need to be worked at to meet the goals.

E.g. if the Goal is to “Double the market share” of a company, one objective could be “To increase the visibility of the Brand”, which is an ‘effect’ objective.  Another objective could be “To increase Sales by 300%”, which is a ’cause’ objective.  The effect objective is not wrong, but could prove to be limiting in its achievement, while the cause objective is more certain of achieving the goal, given the target of 300% has been set based on market and industry trends.

Check on Goals

  • Goals can be for ensuring we cause the targets to be met, or simply for the effect of meeting targets.
  • Responsibility is clearly taken and carried through
  • Improvement built into the objectives and targets, or must have Objectives crafted especially for improvement of performance aspects.
  • SMART check on Objectives and Tactical plans

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