Everyone knows that goals are an important tool in our personal life, in good management and for running a business.  Goals come under different names – Targets, KPIs, Outcomes, Objectives to name a few.  And they are used  in all sorts of  different contexts from coaching, to performance reviews, to planning, to sales. 

At every level of an organisation time spent improving the quality of goals and communicating them better helps to improve performance for people and teams.

Good goals support and self generating cycle of success

Having a clear and well though through set of goals that match the business needs helps you, your colleagues and a team perform better.

A quote from Peter Drucker, one of the best respected management thinkers of the last century, sums this up nicely.

“Objectives are needed in every area where performance and results directly and vitally affect the survival and prosperity of the business. An objective, a goal, a target serves to determine what action to take today to obtain results tomorrow… Without them, management flies by the seat of its pants – without landmarks to steer by, without maps, and without having flown the route before” (Peter Drucker, The Practice of Management, 1955).

And most excitingly goals work.

So why do so many people not have effective  goals for themselves and their teams?  The answer in many cases is that though they get the general idea, they are not sure how to really make them work.


How to set goals that work?

Goals work when they lead to targeted action.  To do this they need to be specific enough for people to understand them, be motivating and be focused on the right areas.

When these criteria are met good goals feed in to the cycle of success.

A 5 step process for achieving this is



What are the areas that you need to be focusing on to achieve what?  This can come from the organisational plan, Personal development plans or local action plans.



Design a set of useful goals for your focus areas.  Choose the right types of goals to get the mix of motivation, clarity and results.  Choose a model of goals setting to use.

Write them down.



Make sure that the Goals still match the interests of all the different stakeholders, so the person or team’s goals align with the organisations goals.  Or there is enough in a person’s goals to get them motivated.



Track the delivery of the goals by holding people to account and following up on the measures.  Celebrate early wins.



The world moves on, markets change, people change.  Repeat the process sufficiently regularly to keep the goals relevant. 




What the research shows

If people feel a goal is ridiculous and unrealistic it does not motivate them

Peoples’ performance improves if they are consulted in the design of their goals

Writing goals down helps

For a more detailed look at the theory behind why goals setting works go and look at this good Wikipedia page