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When we ask our clients what their company’s goals are, very often, they don’t know. 

This is typically true at all levels of the organization, from senior management to the front line. 


And when they do think they know what the goals are, very often, what they report are, in fact, activities rather than actual results. Or their stated goals are so abstract as to be meaningless: “We want to be better this year than we were last.” 

This vague vision is not helpful.

Our last post looked at how there must be a natural flow from strategy to goals to results. In this post, we’re peeling another layer of the onion to show you how to take the general ideas from your initial reflections and shape them into clear, crisp, results-oriented goals. (In our third post in the series, we will dig into actioning them). 


In a lot of organizations, the goal-setting process happens at the top. The leadership team hands down the goals as a proclamation from on high: “Here's your target. Go hit this number.”  

This top-down approach is typically doomed to failure because the people responsible for hitting the goal don’t know where those numbers came from or how they align with the company’s overall strategy (which should be the North Star for everyone). 

A client once told me their department’s goal was “10% fewer product defects in 2024.” 

Ok, great. But why? How does that relate to your strategy? How does it create value for your customers? Is that achievable for your team? Does it make sense based on your resources? 

There is also the risk that it may not be realistic, setting up your team for frustration and failure, which is a major motivation killer. It can also create confusion or even resentment because, really, who among us likes receiving orders that seem arbitrary? 


We once worked with a telecom company with the strategic objective of increasing brand loyalty. Love it. 

But when it came to goals, this strategic aim was nowhere to be seen in the priorities guiding the front-line customer service reps, who are crucial to customer experience. Their performance was primarily based on a metric: take at least 100 calls daily. (Ironically, this target actually ran counter to the strategic goal because it encouraged reps to end calls quickly, even to the point of intentionally hanging up on customers to hit their target!)

Instead of activities, they should have been promoting outcomes. This is where setting results-oriented goals comes in. 

Results-oriented goals are a game changer because they define what you want to accomplish rather than what you should do. By setting these types of goals, everyone in the company can understand how their work contributes to the larger picture. It also sets you up to easily track progress and adjust as needed. 

Results-oriented goals can be either quantitative or qualitative. Some examples of the former include increasing market share, profitability, or new product development. Some examples of qualitative goals are improved service levels, elevated thought leadership, or better client satisfaction. 

The important thing is to look at the result rather than the activities to get there. 


OK, so now you’ve got one or even a few results-oriented goals defined for 2024. You know what you’re hoping to achieve. 

Now, we’re going to take things a step further, refining your goal into SET form so it has a: 

  • Starting point 

  • Ending point

  • Timeframe

The starting point is where you’re at now, and the ending point is – you guessed it – where you want to be. This is as simple as it sounds, but it’s incredible how articulating these three simple boundaries can help focus your team. Just defining this gap can help motivate your team and provide a healthy tension to drive performance. 

And the timeframe? That’s just the deadline or target date for achieving your goal. It helps your team manage their time and priorities. It also allows them to direct their energy and focus. A goal with no timeframe feels arbitrary and formless. The chances of realizing it are slim indeed. 

So, going back to our telecom company, a SET goal might be to increase the Net Promoter Score, a critical measure of customer loyalty, from 65 to 75% by the end of the year. 

The specificity of the result and the timeframe aren’t just motivating; they will help you determine if you’ve met your goal in the future. It also makes planning and provisioning around the goal easier because the tools and talents needed to succeed should be pretty clear. Not having the right architecture – the systems and processes – to deliver is one of the most common reasons organizations fail to transmit well-formulated strategies to results.


By now, you should have at least one (but maybe a few) results-oriented goals that align with your overall strategic objectives, defined in S.E.T. form. 

Amazing! You are already ahead of more than half of organizations and on track to hitting your targets for 2024. 

Now, look at your list and ask yourself: what can we reasonably expect to accomplish this year? There’s no point in setting goals that are impossible to hit based on your team, processes, or other factors. 

More on that in our next post, which will show you how to break your goal into bite-sized actions and focus your team’s energy and time to align with the goal. We’ll also show you how to measure your progress as you transition from naming goals to getting results. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to achieving your goals for 2024. 

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