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The Value of Goals

What's in a goal? Keeping an eye on the prize can keep you on track no matter what comes.

18th century Britain relied heavily on seaships and navigation, which was desperately in need of an accurate way to tell time. It was so important that a prize was offered for an accurate sea clock that would allow captains to know their precise longitude and latitude, and navigate more safely through treacherous seas.

Like ships, businesses also need to focus on the ultimate destination, even if they deviate from the path along the way. But keeping the destination in mind keeps the business on course through the zigs and zags.

A super-objective serves as this end goal, a guiding star that shines a light on the best course of action. It should be both inspirational and aspirational, breathing life into the company and creating a shared sense of purpose for something new and wonderful. But super-objectives should also be specific and measurable, so that it’s clear how much more work needs to be done.

To avoid confusion, super-objectives that are quantitative (numerical) objectives are the best, because they are easier to measure. A non-specific goal can cause confusion. Simply saying that you are ‘#1 for customer service’ is not specific enough, because it’s not clear whether you mean you have the fastest response times, the largest call center, or are the customer favorite.

Instead, super-objectives such as ‘shipping 20,000 units per month by 2020’ is a good goal, since you can measure it clearly. A goal like this involves many different departments and teams. Everyone has a role to play, including people who support the goal indirectly by providing a clean office environment, administrative help, or even lunches and coffees.

A specific super-objective also allows you to share or cascade the objective across all departments, such as Sales and Marketing to Finance and Production. Each function can have a piece of the super-objective that is particular to them: Marketing helps by increasing brand awareness, Sales by increasing purchases, Production by ensuring that enough units are produced, Finance by allowing credit terms that are favorable to good-paying customers. In this way, different teams can work effectively together to reach the goal.


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