Jeremy Lin sure knows a thing or two about scoring (courtesy of streetball.com)
Establishing clear goals is one of the most important things you need to do in any organisation which you work in. Otherwise known as objectives, goals provide an end point for one to aspire and work towards, providing purpose and meaning to any endeavour.
The analogy of sports provides the clearest example of goal setting. With a clear goal in place – kicking the ball through the goal posts, throwing a ball into a basket (who haven’t heard of Jeremy Lin?), or hitting a ball through an opponent’s racket – players and spectators alike would know where to focus their energies and emotions.
Imagine the chaos that would happen if the system of rules and regulations are completely disregarded!
How does one set good goals and work towards achieving them? A useful acronym to use in setting goals is SMART, namely:
Specific – Other than time, determine how your success should be measured. Are we talking about an annual increase of 20% in sales, a reduction of 10% in operating costs, or doubling in the number of patents secured in the next five years? The more precise your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them.
Measurable – What are the variables or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that you will be measuring to determine your path to success? For personal goals, this can be as simple as the number of books read per year or perhaps writing one blog post every two days (my own personal goal). Corporate KPIs (how we dread them!) include sales and profit targets, customer satisfaction indices, costs, staff turnover and so on.
Achievable – Here, one should check that one’s goals are aligned to one’s capabilities and resources. To make each goal achievable, divide them into intermediate milestones so that you can chart your progress along the way. Ask yourself what you can readily achieve given your current state.
Realistic – In a similar fashion, one’s goals should also be matched to the realities of the marketplace, organisation’s strengths, and available technologies. Is it pragmatic to assume that property prices may register double digit annual growth for the next five years? Or can you make a million dollars the first year of work? Sure, there will be outliers, but I guess most of us do not fall into that category.
Time-bound – Finally, it is important to consider different time horizons. While your long-term 5,10 and 15 year goal – also called a vision – can be more broadly conceived, put in place more immediate (daily/weekly/monthly), short (1 to 2 years) and medium term goals (3 to 5 years). These intermediate benchmarks helps to determine how well you are progressing forward.
After putting in place SMART goals, look at how you can implement them. The most intelligent goals will only bear fruit when action meets words. Put in place the following:
1) Constant reminders of what your goals are. This can be in the form of posters, charts, screen savers, mousepads or anything that is commonly looked at and referred to.
2) Alignment of goals to all activities and projects. As you formulate strategies for your next marketing campaign, recruitment exercises, or manufacturing activity, think about how it contributes towards those goals.
3) Develop a feedback loop so that you can take stock of your progress at regular intervals. How far have you moved forward in achieving that sales target? What is the shortfall which you need to meet?
4) Modulate and recalibrate along the way. If you happen to do exceedingly well beyond the target set, consider if the goals were set too low. Similarly, if you find yourself veering of course, be prepared to cut losses to get back on track.
5) Make every habit a goal pleasing one. If your goals are to significantly reduce costs, consider reducing the number of overseas trips to smaller clients. If your goal is to please customers, encourage staff to smile more often when dealing with them at the frontline.
6) Finally, set a good example beginning from the top. The journey to achieving goals can be an arduous one, and it doesn’t help if management proclaims one thing and does another. To ensure that everybody moves along the same grain, leaders should always keep their eyes focused on the goals, rally the troops and encourage behaviours which add rather than subtract on the road to success.