“How to write a goal.” Really? I should write a blog article on how to write a goal?
Unfortunately yes I think I do. I have touched on this in earlier articles and videos about how a list of actions is not a goal, and what a “proper” planning process should look like. However I see it so often that I feel compelled to call it out all the time.
Here are a three statements that I have seen listed as goals, which represent the three mistakes people make when they create goals:-
- To provide excellent customer service
- To provide our services in accordance with the legislation
- To be the biggest
The first is a given. Of course you should provide excellent service, but why is it a goal? Are you saying that you may have a goal “to provide average customer service”? To be in business you must provide excellent service. It is not a goal.
The second is a given as well, but it is also a limitation. Firstly you cannot have a goal that you will provide services outside the law unless you come from certain parts of society I do not write for! Secondly why couch a goal in terms of limitations?
The third is a wish, not a goal. You can aim to be the biggest, but your goal should be about how you get there.
So the three mistakes people make are to list something they should be doing anyway, to define a goal by some limitation, and to call a wish a goal.
Goals should set a target outside the average or the normal, set by reference to what you want to achieve not what restricts you, and define what you have to do to get to where you want to be. As well, goals should be clear and appropriate to the time you define them. You want to read a goal in a year’s time and understand what you meant a year ago, in the context of a year ago. Further, really good goals need to answer what, how, and when.
There are three steps I would ask you to take when you want to set goals.
First, understand where you are now, where you want to be in say a year, and understand what you need to do to get there.
Second, write the goals that set a target on what you need to do.
Third, ask yourself if the goals you have written are clear, and have set dates for achievement, and most importantly, would it make sense to write a goal of the opposite. For example, can you write a goal that says you will NOT provide excellent service, or you will NOT follow legislation. If you can, your goal does not make sense.
All goals are about getting to where you want to go – they are the compass settings for your business or strategic plans.
So, you need to know where you are now – what are your strengths and weaknesses that you can either take advantage of or need to fix? Where is your competition at and what are they doing? How are your customers reacting to you and what do you need to do with them? You need to know where you want to be within a defined period, be it one year or ten. The timeframe of where you want to be is important so that it sets the context of any goal. Knowing where you want to be means setting down what that future will mean for sales, operations, service, finance in the business. Defining this carefully will make the goals more obvious, but they are not the goals themselves.
The goals you write come from this analysis. But they don’t come from the definitions of where you want to be. You need to look at how the gap is to be bridged and the goals come from there.
Goals are very specific but let’s take an example and hopefully you can see how the process can work for you.
Let’s say that a housing construction company sees that currently, it does not have enough capital to take advantage of the healthy housing market and expand. They make about $500,000 a year in profits and distribute that to the owners. They may see that they have excellent trades people working for them, better than the competition. They also see that the housing boom is likely to last 5 years but will probably then tail off.
They look ahead 3 years to where they want to be, because they feel confident in planning no more than 3 years ahead. They want to be building about 20% more houses than they are now. However they don’t want to expand their workforce because they are nervous about what will happen in 5 years. So despite the higher building rate, they see that they will have a core workforce with a panel of sub-contractors. They see themselves building lower-end houses so while the price per house is lower, the rate of build is faster and the profit margin is higher.
In their analysis of how to get there they decide on the following:-
- They need to increase capital by $1 million
- They need to keep most of their workforce but would be better to use sub-contractors beyond those they keep
- They need to have new low-end house designs
If this is what they need, then these are likely to be the actions they have to take:-
- Retain 50% of annual profit for two years as capital
- Obtain a loan of $500,000 that will be repaid in three years’ time
- Maintain a core workforce of 100 people over three years
- Assist excess workers start their own sub-contract businesses and add them to a panel of good sun-contractors
- Hire a designer to design low-end housing
Then they work on their goals for 3 years:-
- To provide $1 million extra capital within 3 years through profit retention and short term loan
- To restructure the workforce so that it blends effectively a core of staff of 100 and supporting sub-contractors within 2 years
- To market low end housing by the end of the year that takes no more than 4 months to build with a 30% profit.
The three goals encapsulate the actions they think they have to take without tying them to those exact actions. For example if their profits are better in the first year, they may decide to retain more than 50% – and pay out the loan faster. The three goals also get them to where they want to be in 3 years’ time by fixing their current weaknesses and using their strengths.
The goals are clear and have set targets – $1 million capital, 100 staff, 4 months build-rate, 30% profits. The goals define the time they are to be achieved by.
I have written about planning and goals and objectives elsewhere. Why don’t you scroll through my blog archives and find an article or a video that can help you make plans and create achievable goals?
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