Good Goals are what gives a strategic plan momentum and what will make an organization excel! In order to make goals manageable, each one needs objectives. Objectives are the specific actions and milestones to goal accomplishment. Defining objectives is the critical step to making goal setting, and thereby the strategic plan, successful.
Just as goals must be realistic, reasonable, and measurable with a champion and completion date, objectives must clearly spell out the milestones to goal achievement. They must also be measurable; in fact, this is probably where the goal will actually be measured. Like the goals themselves, objectives must also have champions and completion dates.
Once the leadership team defines a goal, they must determine the objectives that will lead to its accomplishment. To do this, the team determines what steps need to be taken to make the goal a reality. However, this is where determining objectives and setting goals diverge. The leadership team may not have the expertise to determine the necessary objectives to realize a goal. This is where the goal champion comes in.
The champion should be from a part of the organization that will have the primary responsibility for the goal and will probably form a separate team to determine the exact steps, or milestones, necessary to accomplish the goal. Each objective is an individual step towards the goal. The goal champion may appoint objective champions. Doing so is especially useful when the goal and its objectives are complex. Appointing champions is also a good way to help develop leadership skills in subordinates.
As an example, assume a manufacturing operation where the leadership team has set a goal to reduce time required for a particular process. Objectives for that goal might be,
1. Determine current time required.
2. Map steps for the current process.
3. Evaluate efficiency of each step in the current process.
4. Identify steps that can be eliminated or combined.
5. Monitor new process for time savings.
Each of these objectives would have a specific completion date based on the completion date for the overall goal. Additionally, each of these steps provides a measurement for the progress in meeting the goal and the last step suggests an overall measurement to determine if the goal is met. Notice that measurement does not have to be complicated. In this case, simply comparing the previous required time to the new required time will indicate whether the goal has been met.
This example is a simplified version of an actual event and it serves to illustrate another fact about determining objectives. In this case, it became apparent that the steps could not be accomplished in the time allotted for the goal. When this happens, the goal champion must present the facts to the leadership team who then must decide whether to revise the goal’s completion date. They must carefully consider the reasons, but should definitely be willing to make the required adjustment. Remember, the experts in the process associated with the goal are giving their best advice and the point is to better the organization, not cleave unbendingly to a point on the calendar.
The leadership team should meet within a short period of time after completing the goal setting portion of the strategic plan to hear reports from the goal champions. At this meeting, the champions present the final objectives required for their specific goal and request any modification to the completion dates. This meeting should not be delayed more than two weeks as the momentum toward goal completion is essential. Additionally, the leadership team should receive updates from each champion regularly, usually monthly, to ensure the goal is still on track.
Determining objectives completes the goal setting process and ensures the strategic plan is a comprehensive road map to help the organization excel.