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The effectiveness of goal setting has been proven for generations to deliver impressive results for organizations and individuals alike. As you’ll often find, successful entrepreneurs tend to rank effective time management and goal setting as one of the primary skills required for business success.
But goal setting is much more than just a buzzword or a passive activity. It’s an exercise in discipline, will and determination, which leads to success if done consistently over time. It’s also the most effective way to manage the performance of your team. Key results don’t matter nearly as much as the development of yourself and your staff along the way.
With that said, there are a variety of methodologies and systems available to help individuals and organizations, from OKRs to the S.M.A.R.T. system. Taken piecemeal, many of these principles can apply to anyone, whether it’s setting a stretch goal or, as Jim Collins highlighted in his seminal best-selling business book Good to Great, A Big Hairy Audacious one.
The zeitgeist of goal setting can be traced back to the writings of Aristotle, who stated that deliberate actions can be the catalyst for significant change in the world. In fact, this sentiment inspired Edwin A. Locke when developing his work on goal-setting theory.
At my two primary companies, we recently created our own third-quarter objectives and key results (OKRs). These OKRs set the stage for what I’d like to see my teams achieve over the next three months. Moreover, by using a goal-setting system like OKRs, I’m able to enhance alignment between employee roles and responsibilities and company initiatives. While we probably won’t accomplish every single one of these goals at 100% success, even making incremental progress toward these results will significantly improve and grow our organization.
Here, I’d like to discuss some reasons why adopting a goal-setting system will increase your likelihood of success on your path to achieving your goals and help you formulate better ones to follow.
Learn from proven systems of success.
We adopted the OKR system because it’s proven to be successful at organizations and was recently the topic of a bestselling book called Measure What Matters by venture capital investor John Doerr. The list of fellow OKRers is long and includes major players such as Intel, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Sears and many others.
The OKR system is built around three to five quarterly team objectives that can be applied across the entire organization or to individual departments. Each objective is considered a stretch goal, which can be defined as a measurable goal that is equally ambitious in scope and realistically able to be accomplished.
Each key objective seeks to reach three to four key results, which can be qualitative or quantitative. Examples include improving company culture or growing your company’s sales leads by a certain number.
But methodologies like the OKR system go well beyond just implementing goals. They also seek to improve communication across your organization, increase accountability and provide incentives for success. This, in turn, creates alignment and increases the likelihood of attaining your company goals.
Define your goals and their size.
Bo Jackson reportedly once said, “Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.” I generally fall under the same philosophy, that setting what I call “uncomfortable” goals makes us more likely to take action and ultimately strive to achieve what others might see as impossible.
Performance-management and goal-setting systems share the following characteristics:
Using OKRs and the S.M.A.R.T. system reduces ambiguity and helps you define measurable goals with trackable KPIs. Setting the goal of increasing your thought leadership isn’t really actionable, but publishing in over 25 publications over the next quarter is certainly an ambitious goal that can be tracked.
Use stretch goals to shoot for the stars, but remember that each goal must be grounded in reality. Just don’t be conservative — instead, stretch yourself. Objectives define the type of goal you seek to achieve and the results define its size.
Track progress and optimize for improvement.
Implement monthly monitoring to evaluate the progress of each objective you strive for in your goal-setting exercise. Sit down with employees and team leaders to discover new ways to reach each objective and optimize your existing strategy.
At the end of each quarter, if you don’t meet your goals, evaluate how well you scored on them and refine your objectives to make them more definitive of your desired outcome. In the OKR system, no one ever reaches all of their goals, but you want to shoot for proficient scores or else your system is not working.
Increase your odds of achieving your goals.
In the end, though, it’s not the results you achieve but the improvements you’ve made that will have long-lasting positive impacts on your organization. Goal setting is as much a system for personal development as it is for organizational growth. Just setting your goals and formalizing them on paper makes us more likely to reach them when they are at the forefront of our thinking.
There are so many more goal-setting systems to choose from, but they all conform to the same credo: The higher the goal, the more likely we are to stick with it and make the changes we intended along the path. And remember the mantra that has made a profound difference in my life: Every day is a baseline.
Kristopher B. Jones is a serial entrepreneur and investor. Kris recently launched Special Guest App with comedian / actor Damon Wayans, Jr.
December 14, 2018 at 08:54AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs