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A list of Actions is not a set of Goals!

SONY DSCI’ll bet that like many people you have planning days for your company – where you collect information and then book a room for a couple of days to go through your SWOT analysis and your strategies for the year ahead.

At the end of this you probably end up with a list of goals that everyone is satisfied with and you all go away full of enthusiasm and ready to make it happen.

Yet, a year later, not all of it has happened. Only some (if any!) of your goals were achieved. Why is that?

One of the reasons I have seen in over 30 years of facilitating planning sessions is that your list of goals are not goals! Most people end up with a list of actions, and actions are not goals.

Goals are a set of aspirational situations that you want to get to, described specifically, and congruent with your vision. First you need to set the vision of where you want your company to be at some time in the future, then the goals you set are the situational milestones on the journey there. They are not a list of actions – these are the strategies, the detailed steps on how you will achieve your goals.

This video explains the difference:

 

So, “Open more branches” is not a goal. That is just one action that you might take to get to an ultimate goal such as “Become the most popular widget store on the west coast”. “Increase sales” is not a goal, it is an action to get to the goal of “Expand the size of the business by 25% in three years”. Other goals to do that might be to “open more branches” or “diversify into secondary markets”, all of these being actions to get to the goal of expanding the business by 25%.

It is important to understand the difference between goals and the actions or strategies because you might otherwise be very busy running around taking action – and creating a lot of output, but very little meaningful outcome.

When you write your goals, you also need to ensure that they are specific. You do not want confusion when business managers attempt to implement strategy to achieve goals, and create opportunities in the east coast when you wanted to be the most popular widget store on the west coast. Nor at the same time do you want to review a goal in a year’s time and have to say “I wonder what I meant when we set the goal of “expand the size of the business – did I mean sales or staff or markets?”

Using the SMART model to test how specific your goal is can be very useful. SMART is an acronym for:-

  • Specific – is the wording specific enough?
  • Measurable – can the goal be measured?
  • Achievable – despite being a stretch is it actually achievable and therefore believable?
  • Result-oriented – is it worded in such a way that the goal achieves a result rather than being about output?
  • Timed – have you set a deadline?

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