How to Write Powerful, Precise Strategic Objectives & Goals
Most strategic and operational plans ignore the definition of strategic objectives. Many “objectives” are nothing more than an assortment of task lists submitted by various executives and managers. Someone compiles these lists, puts them into a three-ring binder, and attempts to update them on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Generally, the task lists originate from a well-orchestrated and energetic planning retreat. During which the management team agreed on the major initiatives and goals for the business. This leads us to fall into the trap of believing that our lists actually have benefits.
What most organizations don’t realize, is these strategic business objectives are vital to the success of a strategic plan.
So how do we write objectives that actually support strategy execution best practices?
Step 1: Understand the Definition
The definition of strategic objective is simple. A strategic objective is a business need that can be defined in quantifiable and measurable terms. That means when writing strategic objectives, they need to be phrased in a way that answers two simple questions:
How much? By when?
To write a powerful, precise, and most importantly ACTIONABLE objective, the business need must be bound by both a baseline and a target (how much?), as well as time (by when?). We must know the level of improvement required and how much time we have to achieve the established targets. If either of these elements is missing, the strategy becomes less actionable, and execution will likely suffer.
The key to successful strategic objectives is making them a key business objective, or goal, within your strategic plan.
Step 2: Impactful Strategic Objectives are Measurable Strategic Goals
Baselines and targets help provide a current performance benchmark and desired future performance for the business. Time provides an idea of how aggressive the strategy needs to be. If you can’t establish baseline or target numbers, it’s a sign that your objectives aren’t really goals. In reality, they are strategies or tactics.
Implementing strategies and tactics without knowing how to measure success is a recipe for failure. Your goal is to execute an action plan designed to achieve quantifiable, measurable outcomes by a specific due date. However, be aware of accidentally turning your strategic objectives into strategies. An objective is an outcome measure, not the measure of a process designed to achieve the outcome.
Following are some examples of strategic objectives, but if your initiatives already check these boxes you might be ready to start tracking your plan’s execution
Executive Guide to Strategic Goal Setting
Download this guide to learn how the most successful executives use goal-setting methodologies and technology to empower their teams and improve execution.
Step 3: Use Examples of Strategic Objectives
For an objective to be quantifiable, it must reflect an amount of something. Strategic and operational planning most often use time, dollars, percentages, and numerical counts to measure strategic goals.
Here are some examples:
Time: Decrease the time required to produce a product or provide a service.
For example, a mortgage company might want to reduce the time required to process a loan. A residential construction company might want to reduce the time required to frame a house. A hospital might want to reduce the time an E.R. patient spends waiting to see a physician. This is the most common metric used to meet the definition of strategic objectives.
Dollars: Decrease the cost of producing a product or service, or increase the revenue generated by delivering a product or service.
For example, a mortgage company might want to decrease its loan processing costs. A construction company might want to increase the average margin on new home construction. A hospital might want to decrease average supply costs per E.R. patient.
Percentages: Decrease or increase the rate of a process, activity, or desired outcome.
Using our previous examples, the mortgage company might want to increase its market share percentage for total loans closed. The construction company may want to decrease the percent of lumber rejected for failing to meet its internal specification requirements. The hospital might want to increase the percent of E.R. patients who pay their deductibles at the point of service.
Numerical Counts: Decrease or increase the physical count of something.
The mortgage company might want to increase the number of loans processed. The construction company might want to decrease the number of homes that don’t pass the first inspection. The hospital might want to increase the number of E.R. patients.
There are many other units of measure. You could use length (inches or feet), mass (pounds), volume (gallon), temperature (degrees), area (square feet), heat (BTU), and pressure (pounds per square inch). Each of these can quantify and measure an objective.
By making business objectives for your organization that are quantifiable, measurable, and focused, you’ll immediately increase the chance of accomplishing your strategic plan.
AchieveIt is the platform that large organizations use to get their biggest, most important initiatives out of the boardroom and into reality. Too many great ideas never quite make it across the finish line, because there’s no real way to keep everyone on course and keep everything on track. What does it take to actually guide these initiatives all the way through to completion? You’ve got to:
- Get everything in view – so you can see what’s happening with every initiative, at every level, from the enterprise to the individual, in real time.
- Get everyone engaged – with an easy-to-use platform that connects your organization from the executive leadership to the project teams, keeping everyone accountable and on the same page.
- Get every possible advantage – not only because you have the premier platform in this space, but because you can draw on the experience and best practices of our execution experts.
Ready to improve your plan execution?
Organizations of all types leverage AchieveIt to connect, manage, and execute their most important initiatives. Replace manual processes & siloed systems with interconnected plans in a single, automated platform.