Five Keys To Setting Successful Strategic Goals Written by: Deborah Kendell http://leadershipskills.org.au Significant change is more likely to succeed if it is part of a strategic process, and setting strategic goals is a core part of this process. This article contains five keys to setting truly powerful strategic goals. 1. Limit the number of goals you set 2. Focus on end results 3. Do your homework 4. Collaborate 5. Communicate Limit the Number of Goals You Set If you want your strategy to result in successful change, then it needs to be focused on a small number of memorable goals. Leaders who set four or more goals are far less likely to succeed than those who set no more than three goals. Limiting your goals to three or fewer has a proven and powerful effect on your subsequent success. Of course, it is harder than it sounds. The following keys will help you refine your ideas and distill them into a small number of critical goals. Focus On The End Result Why are we still so bad at this? Goals should describe the desired end result of whatever strategies you employ. Yet many leaders continue to set goals that really describe a particular action. Consider the difference between these two goals: • Reduce operating costs by 10% or more (result) • Introduce a new payroll system (action) The first of these goals is something you want to achieve, while the second is one way you may go about achieving the first. You should also ensure that your goals are truly strategic, rather than tactical. A simple way to do this is to take an existing goal and ask yourself why you want to achieve it. For example, why do you want to reduce operating costs by 10%? The answer may be that you want to decrease your debt. Decreasing debt is more strategic than reducing your operating costs, since it can be achieved a number of different ways. In fact, a goal to significantly reduce debt could be used to collapse several tactical goals into one strategic goal.
Five Keys To Setting Successful Strategic Goals
Do Your Homework First Before focusing the efforts of your entire organisation on achieving your goals for the future, you need to make sure you have chosen the correct goals. To do this, you need to gather data about both your external environment and your internal capabilities. • What is going on in the world around you? What are your competitors doing? What are the market trends? What are the current economic conditions? What are the relevant government policies? What technological or demographic changes may impact on your organisation? How does all of this threaten your organisation? What opportunities does it present? • What is happening inside your organisation? What is your financial position? What is your market share? How is your organisation structured? What do clients think about your organisation? How would you accurately describe the organisation’s culture? What are your staff concerned about? What does your organisation do particularly well? What are its weaknesses? Answering these sorts of questions requires obtaining as much information as possible. Get your information from as many different sources as you can, and combine hard facts and figures with richer information that you can only get from observing and talking to people.
Collaborate You should not try to identify your goals by yourself. Rather, you should lead a strategic process from which the goals emerge. This process does not have to be geared towards producing a strategic plan per se. Rather, it should: • Facilitate coordination and understanding amongst key stakeholders by allowing them the same amount of time for analysing information and reflecting upon the future • Enable you to gain incidental perspectives as your group of key stakeholders examine and discuss the data • Harness the intellect, expertise and insight of other capable leaders in your organisation There are numerous ways to involve people in this process, including data analysis, data synthesis, renewing your organisational identity, scenario planning, visioning, and of course, goal-setting. Whatever combination of collaborative processes you use, it is important to define: • What the steps in the process will be
Five Keys To Setting Successful Strategic Goals © 2010
• How long the process will last (you do not want it to drift for longer than a few months) • What role you expect others to play • What decision-making rights they do and do not have • How the process links to other processes, plans and systems within the organisation Communicate Your Goals In A Memorable Way Goals work when people understand them, keep them at the forefront of their minds and use them to guide their subsequent efforts. The way you communicate your goals is therefore critical to your success in reaching them. • Avoid unnecessary jargon • Use simple analogies, word pictures and slogans • Develop a plan for how you will communicate your goals with the same vigor as a marketing campaign. • Sprinkle your goals throughout various communication mediums (e.g., newsletters, intranets and promotional items) Leadership Skills Australia
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Five Keys To Setting Successful Strategic Goals