Common Mistakes When Setting Goals

Setting Goals – 9 Common Mistakes When Setting Goals

I was asked by a reader what are some of the mistakes organizations make with goals and goal setting.  I think that is a great question!Let’s start with answering the question of why organizations set goals.  Goals are basically an avenue for organizations to get to where they want to go.  This road map helps to achieve strategy and ultimately vision.  If there are no goals, how do you know where you are going or more importantly, how do you know if you ever get there?  Without goals, organizations respond to what happens to them instead of setting their own direction.

So what are some of the common mistakes organizations make when setting goals?

1.  Failing to Write Goals

The first mistake organizations make is not taking the time to set goals.  Setting aside time once a year to establish goals is critical.  This process looks at where the organization is and what it wants to achieve over the next 12 months.

2.  Being Unrealistic with Goals

Goals need to be attainable so it is important to not “bite off more than you can chew” when setting goals.  Overzealous goals can be a discouragement when they are not accomplished.  Goals should be realistic and attainable.  Taking small baby steps will achieve more results than having written grandiose goals that never go any further than the paper they are written on.

3.  Not Considering the Global Business Strategy

One of the keys to effective goals is to have them align with business strategy.  Every goal in the organization should align straight to the global business strategy and ultimately strategic plan.  Failing to align with strategy may result in wasted resources of people, time and money.

4.  No Designated Resources to Complete Goals

It is important for organizations to budget toward the vision to make sure there are the necessary resources available to complete goals.  Lack of resources is a common pitfall to goal attainment.

5.  Not Stepping Out the Process

Goals can be overwhelming unless they are mapped out in a step-by-step process.  Breaking each goal into actionable steps helps establish the day-to-day activities that work toward accomplishing the goal.  It’s difficult to complete a goal of “Improving Employee Engagement” without mapping out the steps to get there.

6.  Not Assigning Responsibility

Every goal needs to have someone assigned to it and accountable for completing it.  If no one is accountable, it is easy to lose focus of the goal.

7.  Distractions

Let’s face it, everyone is busy.  The urgency of the day-to-day matters can be a distraction from goals, making it easy to put them on the back burner.  It is important to make goal completion a priority that is driven from the top of the organization.

8.  No Performance Management Process

Well structured performance management processes are what help organizations complete goals.  Performance management is an important part of business management but it is a critical aspect to goal completion.

9.  The Feel Good Wears Off

Writing goals is always a feel good experience.  Seeing goals written on paper make you feel like you are accomplishing something.  The challenge comes when the “feel good” is gone and there is a tendency to jump on the next trend, fad or good idea.  Maintaining focus on goals until they are completed is important unless the global business strategy has changed and the goals are no longer relevant.

Goal planning is something that needs to be scheduled on an annual basis.  The task can feel overwhelming but if planned well can go quickly and smoothly.  The planning sessions should be strategic and look at where the organization is and where it wants to go in a certain period of time.  Bringing relevant data to the planning is critical to give an accurate picture of where the organization is and what measurable goals can be targeted.

Goal planning should be tied an organizations budgeting process.  It is a good business decision to budget toward the vision.  What this means is, if the organizations is on a calendar year, goals and budgeting should take place in the fall.  If there is a fiscal year, this process should be a few months before the end of the fiscal year.

I’ve been asked, “can organizations be successful without goals”?  The answer is I am sure there are some successful organizations that don’t go through a formal goal setting process but organizations that strive to grow and implement strategy understand that setting goals is a structured way to get there.


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