I’ve talked a little bit about how important goals are as a starting point to achieving anything in business, because goals drive activity, and activity without goals is just busy-work and a waste of money. Knowing what you want to achieve allows you to create strategy, and strategy is where you determine how to achieve those goals.
But how do you set goals in the first place?
There’s an easy acronym for you: SMART. Your goals have to be SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Sensitive. SMART.
Your goals have to achieve something, and that achievement must be very specific. You want to improve call center response times, or transactions per day, or unique visitors per day to your Web site.
That’s a good start, but there must be a finish line — improve call center response times by 20 percent, increase transactions per day from 1,200 to 1,450, increase unique Web site visitors from 8,500 to 11,000. Setting interim mileposts is important, too. It will make sure you’re on track to reach the goals you’ve set, and give you opportunities to correct tactics that aren’t effective.
If your goal is to improve Web site unique visitors per day from 8,500 to 85,000 in the next quarter, you’re probably aiming too high. If you want to increase to 9,100, you’re probably aiming too low. Ideally your goals should be stretching, but achievable. Most of us operate at about 85 percent of what we could achieve in a day. And that’s nothing to be sneezed at. But if your business runs at the same efficiency, you can set your sights on that 8,500 visitors being stretched to 10,000. If you reach 10,000 that’s great — your next goal can be more stretching.
Every goal has three key elements: scope, resources, and quality of finished product. If circumstances mean that you need to reduce the number of employees assigned to the task, while maintaining the quality of the finished work in the same amount of time…you’re probably going to have to reduce the scope of the work. If you demand better quality product with the same scope, you’ll likely need to also add resources (which may be allowing additional time.) It’s not a hard concept when you get used to it.
I say all this to illustrate that there are limits to what you can achieve with finite resources. And you do have finite resources. So your goals have to be stretching, but must be realistically achievable with the resources available to you.
Goals are pointless if you don’t have a finish line. You want to add 1,000 subscribers to your blog? Well, just keep going forever, you’ll get there eventually. You want to reduce your energy costs by 10 percent? Simple, just wait for your provider to reduce their charges by 10 percent. And you can wait and wait.
If you don’t put a time limit on your goals, you’re not going to be pressed into action. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s true. Many procrastinators confess to doing their best work right at deadline. The truth is that deadlines lead to innovation.
Changing processes to be more efficient, finding new ways to increase customer satisfaction, or turn more eyeballs to your Web site all require out-of-the-box thinking. And out of the box thinking, for most of us, requires the desperation induced by a rapidly-approaching deadline.