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Short-term business goals are the secret ingredient to achieving long-term company goals. Short-term goals act as the bridge between the broad, strategic view of the C-suite and the focused, tactical lens of managers and employees by breaking the over-arching vision into smaller pieces. They allow employees to take on manageable workloads while demonstrating progress towards that larger goal.
When setting short-term goals, you must define how, how much and who. These components are critical for turning strategic planning into tactical execution.
Related: Why Short-Term Goals Lead to Long-Term Rewards
The How: Defining objectives
If the goal is the destination, then objectives are the directions. Objectives are tactical steps taken to achieve an outcome. But like directions, there can be more than one way to reach a destination. It’s important to remember that unlike goals, which are fixed, objectives can be changed. How a goal is achieved is not as important as attaining it. If something doesn’t work, then try something else.
Defining objectives needs to be a group effort. Managers should include their teams in a brainstorming session and generate as many ideas as possible. Write all of them down, from logical to improbable; there are no wrong answers.
The purpose of this exercise is twofold. First, it gives employees a sense of ownership and creates a deeper connection to the contribution of their work. Second, providing a list of options saves time in the long run. If one plan doesn’t work, you can move right on to the next without having to press pause to think of a new approach.
Next is sorting through and ranking all the ideas. Which ones are most likely to work? What can be implemented and tested quickly? A thoughtful comb-through will help the team prioritize which ideas should be tried first, setting your first objectives. Keep in mind that objectives don’t have to be run one at a time. When ranking your list, look for opportunities to run objectives in tandem, like A/B split testing.
Objectives must be clearly defined before being implemented. There need to be clear instructions for how the work will be done, how much of an investment it is, what the expected outcomes are and how long it will take. This clarity is necessary for measuring progress. You need to know what you are looking for and how that outcome relates to the work being done.
Once objectives are established at the team level, managers must communicate with one another to develop interdependencies and prioritize resource use, such as the tech and creative departments. Not only does this prevent backlogs and slowdowns, but it also creates project transparency. Managers can see where their projects depend on each other and convey that importance to their team members.
Related: Why Our Brains Like Short-Term Goals
The How Much: Measurement
All objectives must be measurable. If it cannot be measured, it cannot be managed. Without some way of benchmarking progress, you have no idea if your efforts are bearing fruit. Measuring an objective should be part of the defining process before implementation. Usually, this is in the form of a KPI, but if one cannot be correlated to an objective’s progress, then setting up a measurable baseline will do.
In addition to being measured, objectives need to be on a strict timeframe. Short-term goals are just that – short on time. Objectives that take too long to produce a result are not viable options. Additionally, set benchmarks from the outset. These act as early indicators and prevent time wasted. This much progress is expected in two weeks, this much in four. If these predictions aren’t met, it’s time to try something else.
Measurement should be an ongoing process, not a one-and-done task. An objective can show promise at the start, but slow down at the halfway mark. This is why consistent check-ins are vital.
Related: The 5 Golden Rules of Goal-Setting
The Who: Maintaining accountability
Every goal needs a navigator: someone responsible for overseeing the chaos and ensuring all the moving parts are moving in the same direction. Who plays this role is different in any company. It can be a chief operations officer, a governance officer or even an experienced manager. Regardless of title, whoever takes this role is responsible for overseeing every functional piece of achieving that goal.
They are responsible for working with the functional managers of participating teams and ensuring they communicate with each other. They are consistently checking in with teams and measuring objective progress. They hold objectives to their timetables and make the call to pivot when progress isn’t keeping up. When new information comes in, it is up to them to look at the plan and decide what changes need to be made. Risk management and contingencies are their responsibility.
Two things that will be vital to their success are documenting everything and remaining impartial. If something isn’t written down, then it doesn’t count. You cannot find success by working off the assumption that people always understand you. Having thorough documentation for each step of the process provides something to refer to and produces a record of what did and did not work to better inform decisions for the next round of goal setting.
Impartiality is essential because it prevents you from getting bogged down with unimportant details. It does not matter how managers structure their teams, so long as they produce results. It does not matter how much potential an objective has, if it does not show progress in the allotted time frame, you move to the next one.
The transition from strategic vision to tangible results can be a bumpy one. As the saying goes, “Easier said than done.” And while you can’t account for the unknown, you can plan for it by setting clear guidelines. Defining how work will be done, how success will be measured and who will be responsible creates a framework that is flexible enough to adapt to changes while being sturdy enough to see you through.
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