• Oak Street Experts

7 Tips to Improve Your Goal Setting

What do you want to have your business accomplish in the next six months? This type of question is the leadoff to many conversations that we have with our clients. The answer to this question provides the framework for what goals need to be set within the organization to make that objective a reality. Regardless of the area of the business where this objective exists, it is important to design a set of goals that provides you and your team a direction on what activities need to be completed.


That sounds easy, but where do businesses tend to trip up?

Most of the time, the answer is a gap in how they are structuring and achieving the goals that lead up to the final objective. Goal setting is crucial for all businesses and when getting started, there are 7 tips that we recommend considering in your process and how you can improve your goals today:


Tip #1: Make Sure Your Goal Has a Clear Definition of Success


When starting the goal process, the first step that we always recommend to our clients is making sure that you have a clear definition of success. What that means is that you and all of the stakeholders involved in the goal process have a singular definition of what winning looks like. This definition is what the entire team needs to be driving towards and the level of detail needed varies depending on what the organization is looking to achieve. When defining the definition of success, this is what you are going to want to align all tasks towards and ultimately this is what you are going to want to measure in terms of determining whether you were able to do what you sought out to obtain.


Tip #2: Make sure your goal related efforts has the necessary resources


What is needed to make sure that your goal is reality? When working towards a goal, it is crucial that the organization has dedicated the sufficient amount of resources. What these resources are will vary greatly depending on the situation, but some common areas to consider are: financial investment, time (personnel), and opportunity. Underinvesting in your goal is one of the quickest ways to fail and this is something that needs to be continuously monitored as you complete the different steps needed to make your goal a reality.


Tip #3: Make Sure You Consider Competing Priorities


One of the areas that businesses most often overlook when setting goals for their teams is the presence of competing priorities. In a vacuum, the singular goal might not be overly complex, but accomplishing it could become much more challenging when factoring in the need to accomplish multiple goals simultaneously. When setting the goals for your team, be sure to consider how the goal is going to fit alongside the other goals and daily responsibilities that the team needs to complete. Goal setting is most effective when its building on an existing operational foundation, so it is key that maintaining the existing foundation is something that happens for your organization alongside the new priorities.


Tip #4: Make Sure Your Goal Has Clear Ownership


Who is going to be responsible for making sure that the deliverables needed to accomplish your goal becomes a reality? Clear ownership is the best way to make sure that there is a dedicated individual or individuals that are accountable for making sure your goal is achieved. There are many different ways to tackle the best way to assign ownership. We have found that starting from the standpoint of what individual is responsible for the operational area where the goal exists is a good place to start. Depending on that individual’s bandwidth and other existing responsibilities, it may also make sense to divide the responsibility among several individuals.


Tip #5: Make Sure Your Goals Are Measurable

How are you measuring the progress towards accomplishing your goal? One challenge that our clients regularly work with us to address is the systems of measurement that they have in place to determine whether their goal is on track. To make that determination, you need to think about what indicators are present along the process that are going to either indicate the successful progress or red flag when your team is off track. Oak Street recommends that you regularly meet with the involved stakeholders to discuss the progress of these metrics and that they are the data points that the team is living by as they work towards accomplishing the goal.


Tip #6: Make Sure to Continuously Evaluate Your Progress


Many times one of the primary feedback points that we get from clients when discussing their past goal oriented projects is that they have struggled to determine where the project got off track prior to outright failure. A quick hack to avoid this trap is to make sure that your team and involved stakeholders are regularly evaluating the progress within the project. These discussions should leverage the metrics that were defined in Tip #5 and provides an outlet for quick course correction when needed. It is virtually impossible to foresee all challenges that are going to present themselves over the course of a project, so having regular evaluation ensures that you are going to spot when something is going off the rails before it can’t be corrected.


Tip #7: Make Sure to Debrief Upon Completion


Lastly, it is very beneficial for organizations to consider the lessons learned over the course of a goal oriented project so that these lessons can be applied to future initiatives that can benefit from this knowledge. Every organization is going to have the opportunity to optimize and learn from past experience, so an Oak Street best practice is to make sure to have a set discussion that debriefs how a project went. Areas to focus on during that discussion include: what went well, what went poorly, reviewing the resource allocation process, and reviewing the effectiveness of the metrics used to define success. Depending on the project, there are going to be many other areas that should be looked at as well, but if you tackle this from the standpoint of what lesson do I want to make sure to apply for future initiatives you are going to be in a good place.


Ultimately, the level of planning and execution of the above tips are certainly going to vary from goal to goal. Not all goals are created equal. Those that tie directly to the organization’s long-term health or have a high cost (opportunity or financial) should be looked at much more closely compared to a less complex goal related effort. You are going to want to think about what makes sense in relation to what you are trying to achieve and then design your own process according to what makes sense.



Not sure where to get started with one of your upcoming initiatives? Reach out to Oak Street today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experts and make sure that your effort is a success.


© 2021 by Oak Street Associates, LLC

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