Setting Goals and Objectives – Part Two

October 31st, 2008

Objectives are statements of measureable results to be accomplished within the time frame of the next year. A standard of performance represents a level of achievement to be reached and then maintained on an ongoing basis.

Here are some guidelines for setting and writing your objectives:

  • An objective should start with the word “to” followed by an action or accomplishment verb.
  • An objective should specify a single measureable result to be accomplished.
  • An objective should specify a target date or time span for completion.
  • An objective should specify maximum cost factors.
  • An objective should be as specific and quantitative (measurable and verifiable) as possible.
  • An objective should specify only what and the when and not venture into the why and how.
  • An objective should  be in direct support of, or comparable, with your strategy and long-range plans.
  • An objective should be realistic and attainable, but still represent a significant challenge.

Preparing your Action Plans

Action plans are specific means by which you accomplish your objectives. Action plans serve three purposes:

  1. Clearly identify what has to take place.
  2. Test and validate your objective.
  3. Serve as a communication vehicle for others who need to contribute to or who will be affected by what takes place.

Action plans basically incorporate the following five factors:

  1. The specific steps or actions that will be required.
  2. The people who will be held accountable for seeing that each step or action is completed.
  3. The timetable for carrying out the steps or actions.
  4. The resources that will be needed to be allocated in order to carry them out.
  5. The feedback mechanisms that will be used to monitor progress within each action step.

A columnar chart can be developed to lay out a meaningful action plan. After stating the objective at the top of the chart, the following columns should be filled out:

  1. Objective: The specific objective for which the action plan is being prepared.
  2. Action Steps: The five to ten major actions or events required to achieve the objective.
  3. Accountability: The specifif individuals who will be held accountable for seeing that each action step is carried out.
  4. Schedule: The total time frame within the action step is to be carried out using actual start and completion dates.
  5. Resources: The total estimated costs for completing the action steps. Resources should be broken into money and time.
  6. Feedback mechanisms: The specific methods that are available (or need to be developed) for providing information needed to track progress within each action step.

Finally, here is a final checklist that should be used to evaluate your action plans to determine if any factors affecting your action plan have been overlooked:

  • Strategic and/or tactical plan impact – Are there other portions of your plans that might be positively or negatively impacted by what you do?
  • Financial Impact – What are the capital or short-term cash flow implications?
  • Resource Availability – Do you have or can you get the necessary personnel, materials, information, and other resources to support your plan?
  • Technology – Could changes in technology make your plan obsolete?
  • Environmental Conditions – Have you considered climate, weather, natural resources that may have a positive or negative impact on your plan?
  • Political – Can you shift your plans quickly in order to respond to major political shifts?
  • Contractual – Are there customer or labor contracts that may require a different course of action?
  • Contingency Plans – Have you provided for contingency or backup plans in case something unexpected happens?

After you develop your plans it is important to focus on monitoring the few vital factors within the plan that let you know whether or not you are on track and if modifications are necessary. You then need to ask what is likely to change and how to respond to any required changes. The key is continually check your progress and respond accordingly.

One thing with goals and objectives is that if they get written down, they are more likely to be accomplished. Make it a habit and I think you’ll start to see real progress and accomplishment.