How do you set objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals?

Smart organisations are looking to get their people closely aligned to their corporate goals. These organisations are more successful by getting everyone moving in the same direction. To achieve this, their managers need to take the goals of their organisation, division and unit into account when setting objectives for their team.

But what if you’re a manager and your organisation provide little clarity around it’s goals?

This is a good question and one that a reader David has asked in response to my post on Writing Objectives that Produce Results.

I’m going to suggest three ways this can be tackled.

  1. Use a balanced scorecard approach.
  2. Focus on the output of your unit or team.
  3. Focus on the workflow/processes within your unit or team.

The balanced scorecard approach
This approach takes into account a balanced set of factors that affect the long term success of an organisation.

  • Financial.
  • Customers.
  • Internal processes.
  • Learning and growth.

Using this approach you would set objectives for your team for each of these categories.

For business the objectives here are usually centred around increasing revenue or profits.

For not-for-profit and government organisations the objectives usually focus on reducing costs.

Examples are increasing customer satisfaction and retaining customers.

Internal processes
Objectives here focus on improvements to processes used within the organisation. For example implementing a CRM system.

Learning and growth
Goals that will help the individual become more capable and give the organisation the capacity to improve.

Focus on the output of your team
Using this method you focus on your customers (internal or external). Answer these two questions…

  1. What services do you provide to them?
  2. What outputs do you provide to them?

For each of these, your objectives can focus on one or more of …

  • Improving quality.
  • Increasing quantity.
  • Reducing quantity.
  • Improving timeliness.
  • Improving cost effectiveness.

You might be wondering why I included reducing quantity. An example of this is reducing the number of errors in some output.

Focus on workflow
With this approach you create a flow chart for each of the processes within your team.

  • What are the steps involved to provide services or products?
  • Would it be beneficial to the organisation to improve any of these steps or replace them completely?
  • If they can be improved, set goals and targets.
  • Then set individual objectives for your team members that are linked to these goals and within their sphere of influence.

Happy goal setting.


About Jon Windust

Jon Windust is the CEO at Cognology – Talent management software for the future of work. Over 250 businesses use Cognology to power cutting-edge talent strategy. View all posts by Jon Windust

5 responses to “How do you set objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals?

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