Here’s a simple model for best practice goal setting that works and helps you to link a stretch goal with some smart action-oriented goals that will help deliver your desired outcome.
Scenario – This is the current landscape in which you are operating. Look for trends rather than snapshots and create an understanding of the opportunities and threats around you. Look at the competition and your partners and other operators in your marketplace. Seek out opportunities and work out your strengths and weaknesses versus the competition as you assess their relative importance and relevance.
Desired Outcome – Think big and visualise and feel where you eventually want to reach. What does it feel and look like? How will your situation be more satisfying, relevant and successful? The desired outcome is more than a goal, it’s how your world will look and feel when you arrive there. Try to not restrict yourself with reasons why you might not get there. This is a desirable outcome so be positive when setting your intention.
Stretch Goal – This is the fun part. Instead of falling into the trap that most people end up in when they plan their goals, it’s time to push yourself some way beyond your comfort zone of what’s probable and aim for what’s possible. I like to call this audacious goal setting. Your stretch goal can be some way beyond what you’ve achieved before and should be aligned within your desired outcome. It’s possible that in time you might set a number of stretch goals within your overall desired outcome. Make this stretch goal smart.
Milestones and KPIs – It’s unlikely you will hit your stretch goal in one set of actions so it’s important to break down your overall timeline into more achievable, bite-sized steps. If, for example, your stretch goal will take you three years to achieve then you can set annual or maybe six monthly milestones into which you can set some measurable KPIs. These will ensure you can monitor if you are on track with your progress and to help you review remedial changes to your plan or goal setting if things don’t progress quite how you initially envisaged.
Smart Actions – To underpin your stretch goal it’s time to focus on the smart actions required to help you reach your first milestone. Don’t worry about future milestones because this is the power of this process in that it helps you not to be daunted by the sheer scale of the task of trying to reach your audacious goal but rather to focus on the things you can do in the near future to make great progress towards it. Your actions should be smart and if there are many then you need to prioritise. Remember that according to the Pareto Principle, 80% of the return from completing your smart actions will come from just 20% of those actions. So it’s vital to know which actions they are so you can prioritise them over the others that will add less value. You can plot all actions in an Effort versus Return graph. Or you can put them all into categories of Must, Should, Could. Those in the Must category are clearly the most important and they can can be further split down into Now, Soon, Later. This is a simple but effective method of prioritising to ensure you get those quick wins and maximum value from the time you are spending. Don’t worry if some of your priorities appear to be insignificant. Kaizen approach suggests that you can still get great returns from even 1% improvements to what you do or have already.
Measures and Reporting – Keep a constant watch on your performance and that of others if you are on this journey as part of a team or collaboration. Ongoing measurement of your progress and any bottlenecks or issues is vital to ensure you can maintain that early momentum and enthusiasm. Remember that all goals will have some challenges and nothing is ever easy or simple when you take your plan into the real world. But consistently keeping a watchful eye on your progress against your KPIs and timescales will ensure you stay on top of things, especially when the going gets tough.
Distractions and Dissenters – You will know that the real world will present you with many reasons for why you should fail. There are constant pressures from others’ agenda, your email inbox, buy-in from others who you need to be involved, and a changing external landscape. But one of the key dissenters is likely to be you! Each time you hear that nagging voice in your head that says you won’t hit your targets, it was a crazy idea in the first place, people won’t support you, etc. etc. then return your thinking to the intention of your desired outcome. This is your leading light and the whole reason why you are spending your valuable time and energy on this process. You will have doubt at some point in the journey but your desired outcome should keep you focused and help you to maintain great progress towards achieving your stretch goal.