by Shayne Thomas
16 May 2019
The ABC’s (Literally) of Goal Setting
Why business growth comes down to driving objectives and key results
Every business experiences growing pains at some point in its life cycle. This is especially true for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as they begin to achieve their primary objectives and key results. We’ve seen this story play out many times before: one day you’re operating a quintessential “mom and pop,” and the next you’re struggling to keep up with demand. Don’t get me wrong, business growth is a great problem to have. But when those growing pains start to take hold, business owners must stay focused on one thing only: reaching their goals.
As much as business owners would like all of their dreams and goals to be achieved overnight, that’s not likely going to happen (sorry to be the bearer of bad news!). Having goals in sight it great. To achieve them, however, you must put a plan in place that takes you from point A, where you are today, to point B, where you see your business in the not-so-distant future. This very important part of managing business growth all boils down to goal setting.
The truth is, there’s not really a one-size-fits-all goal setting example. What works for managing employee productivity and success in large corporations may not necessarily be the right fit for those busting their chops in a fledgling startup. However, regardless of the size of your business, there are likely a few goal setting how-to’s that might prove to be quite useful from time to time. Here, we’ll take a quick look at what those are, why they’re important, and how they can benefit your business in both the near- and long-term.
Objectives and Key Results
More commonly referred to as OKRs, this is a goal-setting strategy pioneered by venture capitalist John Doerr during his time at Intel—a strategy that has since formed the goal setting foundation for many other large Silicon Valley corporations, most notably Google. What makes OKRs unique and so powerful, even in its sheer simplicity, is that this strategy creates a framework through which every employee, regardless of their level in an organization, can connect the work they do and the results driven by that work to the company’s overarching goals. The process is broken into—yes, you guessed it—two key components:
- Objectives: Short, clear, and inspirational qualitative descriptions of what you, your team, or your company hope to achieve at a specific point in the future. These create a roadmap of where you want to go and should ideally motivate you to get there. These are then followed by…
- Key Results: Up to five quantitative metrics that you can (and will) use to measure your progress against working towards achieving those objectives.
A simpler way of looking at this: objectives are the “what” and key results are the “how.” Together, they give you something to work towards and a clear roadmap for how you can get there. Even more, what separates this from other goal setting examples is that OKRs can be set at every level of an organization, from company-wide all the way down to each and every individual contributor. This is empowering because it allows all employees to play an active role in achieving in broader business goals while also creating the space to set attainable and actionable goals of their own. In other words, there’s a collective sense around goal setting that can inspire, motivate, and engage teams to stay productive.
Ideally, all goals should be smart; SMART goals are just a bit smarter. All silliness aside, SMART goals are essentially the other side of the OKR coin, an acronym that stands for:
- Specific: A clear statement that outlines the scope of your goal, something that must be understood by all parties working towards that same goal.
- Measurable: A metric used to describe what success looks like once the goal is achieved.
- Achievable: A reminder to be ambitious—because we all love stretch goals—while also operating within your own control and within the realm of reality.
- Relevant: A logical link that ties your goal—or the outcomes associated with it—to other organizational goals (i.e. your goal can’t live in a vacuum).
- Time-Bound: A start date and end date that sets clear expectations around when a goal will ideally be achieved and at what point to deem it a success or a work-in-progress.
In all reality, this is less of a goal setting strategy and more of a goal-setting how-to for creating succinct goals that have a real and measurable impact (even as you work through your OKRs). It’s a simple, yet helpful rubric that keeps you focused, results-driven, and honest while also given you the space to challenge yourself or your business.
The most important part of any goal setting initiative is to ensure that all agreed upon goals become a part of the day-to-day. This means you can’t just create your goals, set them aside for safe keeping, and hope that, one day, they magically materialize. If only it were that easy! That’s why, at Cornerstone, we encourage and believe in the power of regular and ongoing check-ins (i.e. continual performance management) to assess progress against goals, discuss obstacles and challenges, and identify new opportunities. This is not so much a goal setting tactic as much as it is an add-on to those tactics, a way to maintain accountability, drive engagement, and keep the lines of communication and the sharing of feedback (manager to employee, manager to team, business to employees) open at all times. It’s also a great way to humanize conversations around goals and development, which can boost productivity and overall employee happiness.
So, now with your business in full-on growth mode, setting goals is obviously more important than ever—and a great way to achieve those KPIs (couldn’t resist throwing one more acronym into the mix). There are benefits associated with both OKRs and SMART goals. However, as your business grows, it’s critical that your employees grow with your business and, ultimately, feel invested in its success. OKRs, coupled with ongoing check-ins, are a winning combination for managing sustainable growth while keeping your employees excited and engaged.
Don’t worry, you’re not in this alone. Cornerstone is here help make your business’s goal setting and check-in process a lot easier. Learn more or request a demo today.