The important performance difference between a goal and an objective
Goals and objectives are very much part of the language of work.
They are critical to organisational success. Without them your company would lack direction and focus. This would impact on the performance of everyone connected with the business.
They form part of the appraisal and performance-review process in most organisations. Goals and objectives are important to employees. Their training, development, support and future career prospects can be dependent on them.
Goals and objectives impact on morale and overall job satisfaction.
In the workplace, it is easy to confuse the words ‘goals’ with ‘objectives’. There is a difference and recognising this is important to the manager.
A goal is a broad statement of intent and is often described in a subjective manner. It is something you would like to achieve but because of its loose nature can prove to be unpopular with some managers. Its main benefit is that it can kick-start the ‘strategy process’ in an organisation, or it can support the development of more focused objectives in a team environment.
An example of an organisational goal is ‘To raise the profile of the brand in the marketplace’. The intent in the statement enables the individuals responsible for the goal to work on the finer detail to make it happen.
An example of a team goal might be ‘To build a stronger relationship with the finance department’. Again the intent allows the team members to put in place behaviours and activities which will contribute to the goal.
An example of a personal goal might be ‘To improve one’s commercial knowledge and skill’. The goal enables the person to work out a plan to achieve it.
Without a goal (or sometimes termed an aim), objectives cannot be accurately developed.
An objective is different to a goal.
An objective is a specific activity, behaviour or course of action. The language is objective and precise in nature. In the world of business, objectives describe what is needed to achieve a goal or aim.
Objectives are frequently written to meet the so-called SMART rules. SMART stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound.
An example of an organisational objective is ‘To achieve a sales turnover of £10 million by the end of the quarter’. The precise nature of the objective focuses on the number involved (£10 million), the time period (end of quarter) and the activity (sales turnover). No one is left in any doubt about the nature and focus of the objective.
An example of a team objective might be ‘To reduce the number of customer complaints by 90% in the next week’. Again the precise nature of the objective gives clear direction to what is expected of the team.
An example of a personal objective might be ‘To complete and submit your personal expense claim within two days from the month end’. Activity and timescale focuses the individual on the behaviours required.
All forward-thinking ambitious organisations have goals and objectives.
The key to developing and implementing them is to ensure that they work in unison with other divisions, departments and people in the business. Unnecessary goals or objectives which conflict with others will cause problems with productivity, efficiency and morale.
Keeping objectives and goals in sync is an important challenge for many managers.
On the business growth journey, forward thinking leaders spend a great deal of time constantly improving their goal and objective-setting performance. They understand how to identify the barriers to effective goal and objective setting and how to avoid the many common mistakes made by managers when setting them for members of their team.
Producing goals and objectives which are linked to the plans for the organisation is vitally important to the success of the company.
Securing commitment from team members to the goals and objectives is also important if they wish to have a strong performance culture within the organisation.
Goal and objective setting is an important core skill of the high-performing manager and time spent on this area is time well spent.
But remember understanding the difference between a goal and an objective is critical to applying the skill in the first place.
Best wishes on your journey, wherever it may take you.