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The 3 Types of Organizational Goals You Need to Achieve Excellence

Jason Diamond Arnold

January 17, 2020

The month of January should be declared National Goal-Setting Month. While personal resolutions may or may not be effective, there does exist a more proven science as to the way we should pursue professional goals within our organizations. There are several ways to use goal-setting as a viable practice to help your company achieve success. Your goal-setting and goal-tracking strategy can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. The way you set and pursue goals in your organization largely depends on the context of the business initiative you’re trying to achieve, and the roles through which you’re attempting to achieve them.

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While all organizational goals — whether they’re at the individual, team, or corporate level— should have a time frame in which they should be achieved, some goals will naturally take longer than others to pursue. Broader goals, like increasing market share or creating a performance-focused culture, will take more time, direction, and follow up than a goal like increasing an individual’s sales goal, for example. But, all professional goals should have a defined time expectation. Goals without a due date are like running a race without a finish line.

What are the Three Types of Goals?

Regardless of the due date or the end outcomes, great organizations encourage leaders at all levels to build goals that are relevant to a team or to individual roles, and also align with larger organizational goals. Setting goals that are relevant to individuals but serve the organizational strategy ensures a well-rounded planning strategy of long-term, agile, and performance-focused goals that aim to improve efficiency, engagement, and bottom line business results — while generating personal meaning and purpose for the individuals or teams pursuing them. Regardless if goals take an OKR or SMART approach to executing strategy, there are three main areas where you should focus your organizational goal strategy:

Bonus Content: Download the Goal-Setting Solutions Buyer's Guide!

Long-Term Goals

A long-term organizational goal defines a success point in the future — potentially months, or even years down the road. Long-term goals include objectives for life, career, education, and more. They require you to plan and allot time for the grand accomplishment. They’re best tackled through a series of short-term goals or milestones along the journey toward the final destination. Especially large long-term goals will not reach completion unless you define a way to break them down into manageable stages of progress.

When President Kennedy proclaimed the vision of sending a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s decade, he established a long-term goal. Immediately, his administration and the team at NASA began breaking their goal down into manageable outcomes, each requiring completion before moving on to the next stage of placing a man on the moon. Long-term goals allow organizations to develop a broad view of the important outcomes hoped to be achieved, individually and collectively. Without long-term goals, one might fall victim to the urgency of present needs, enslaving you to a constant state of reactionary decision-making, rather than a proactive steady progress toward a more intentional and desirable future.

Agile Goals

Agile goals are rooted in the lean and rapid movements of the Tech Start-Up industry. Agile goals describe a set of values and a process of achieving outcomes that evolve through small cycles of collaboration within or between teams. Agile organizational goals allow individuals or teams to break down the long-term goals into a roadmap of shorter and achievable milestones. Agile goals are usually executed by focusing on one clear and concise smaller objective at a time. Agile goals are typically two week “sprints” of actionable activities that have a clear objective to be completed within that short time-frame.

For example, in the software industry, developers create daily and weekly process cadences as a way to conduct quality checks, run tests, demo, and adjust or refine the requirements of the project to suit customer needs and company goals. Agile goals with shorter cycles and achievable results effectively contribute to a larger ongoing objective. They are designed with an inherent sense of urgency that influences a team to produce results quickly and collaboratively while continually making adjustments and improvements along the way.

Performance Goals

Performance goals are rooted in current events and are designed to measure, analyze, and improve over time — usually on a quarterly, tri-annual, or bi-annual period of time. These goals can include achievements in education, problem-solving, and professional scenarios that clearly demonstrate some type of forward, measurable progress in which an individual will have some levels of regular conversations toward a performance goal. These discussions are often in relation to a team member’s role and their contribution toward a specific outcome. Performance goals are often centered on what the organization is trying to achieve from a strategic viewpoint. These goals often motivate individuals to continue finding support, and they give you a gauge on the energy needed to effectively pursue important outcomes.

Along the way, you should constantly evaluate — through formal or informal appraisals or retrospectives — any performance goals for their effectiveness or completion. When evaluating a performance goal, it’s important team leaders and individuals focus less on the key metrics of the goal and more on the overall process and collaboration was toward achieving it. Metrics and outcomes are important, but the most critical learnings, as related to performance, are lost when only focusing on numbers. Such practice ignores the interpersonal relationships and collaboration that experienced during the pursuit of the goal. As a leader, collaborating on performance goals well developing an individual’s skill sets builds trust and allows you to measure and discuss their work in an objective way. It allows for healthy feedback and recognition and performance improvement in the future.

Set Up Goals For Success

Regardless of the structure you choose, setting your goals the right way is the key to experiencing a more intentional and meaningful way to be productive. Every goal needs to align with the overall mission and vision of the organization in a way that is attainable and engaging. Here are some tips for productive goal-setting and achievement:

Set the right orientation.

All roads must lead to Rome. It’s crucial to the success of the organization as a whole that even small, individual goals serve the greater business objectives. Without aligning goals to a larger common purpose or strategy, an individual’s progress will be meaningless. Understanding where you’re going and why you’re going there is important to setting goals with meaning and purpose.

Make them descriptive.

The more detailed and clear you make your goals, the more likely everyone is able to understand what their role is and why the goal is important to the company. Eliminating vagueness ensures everyone understands your organizational goals the same way — leaving little room for interpretation. Making goals more descriptive reduces confusion, roadblocks, and extra work in the end.

Make them realistic.

Don’t set goals you know your people or organization can’t achieve. Stretch goals are important to push skills and challenge limitations, but unrealistic goals are setting them up for inevitable failure that’s detrimental to company morale. Additionally, if an individual knows it’s unrealistic, you risk them disengaging from the goal entirely and ignoring the basic premise around which you set the goal all together.

Size them properly.

Break down your goals into achievable milestones. Setting one goal that’s too large or too distant can become unrealistic. But, when you break it into bite-sized pieces that can be accomplished in a step-by-step progression helps you achieve larger, long-term objectives. What once seemed too far of a stretch now becomes attainable through smaller objectives. It’s about maintaining perspective.

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Make them measurable.

Make sure you have a way to determine whether or not your goals are working for you. Intangible ideas rarely give you the same outcomes as concrete ones rooted in results. Be sure progress can be tracked, results can be measured, and the data can be analyzed. This doesn’t have to be mathematical madness, but there needs to be a degree of measurement of what success looks like, whatever objective you’re pursuing.

Assign them properly.

Determine how many people it will require to meet this goal, and who has the skills, tools, and resources available to them in order to be effective. Do they have a way to communicate and collaborate with each other throughout their progress? Successfully meeting goals requires the proper knowledge and ability to get there. Having a dashboard with goals is a way to understand who’s working on what part of the objective and where we are in the overall process of achieving the larger objective.

Make sure you have the necessary resources.

Do the people or teams assigned to the goals have what they need to achieve them? Consider any budgetary needs or constraints to your goals before you set them. Is there something you don’t have that is necessary to achieve this goal that would be an obstacle? Can you get around that obstacle without it?

Have continuous conversations.

Make sure your managers and individuals are communicating constantly and effectively to facilitate goal completion. Continuous conversations keep individuals on track, managers keyed into motivation and ability, and can identify opportunities for learning.

Be transparent.

Be sure to communicate clearly and frequently why these goals have been set, who’s working towards them, and how they’re progressing. When employees understand where they fit into organizational goals, you’re more likely to get buy-in, participation, and engagement.

Whether you and your company are thinking long-term objectives or need to achieve urgent results, high performing organizations take the time to clarify and agree on key business initiatives, then set goals in place that address what you’re trying to achieve. Defining your goals eliminates confusion and increases individual and organizational performance excellence. Make use of the SMART goal process or OKR goals that set everyone on the path to success.

We’d love to tell you more about the ways Inspire can help you understand, set, and track your organizational goals that facilitate performance and help you meet great business objectives.