Importance of Clearly Articulated Business Goals.
Do you have a woolly idea about where you want to take your business or do you have specific goals written down that everyone in your business gets to see? Do you spend so much time dealing with day-to-day business issues that you tend to ignore your goals and hope that they will be achieved anyway? A business will not get anywhere meaningful without having clearly articulated and written goals. Going through the process of writing down your goals is often the catalyst that ensures your business goals are achieved.
Setting meaningful and achievable Goals is just one element of the business planning process. Business planning is a trickle down method of capturing what your business is all about. Your core values drive your vision for the business. Your vision for the business allows you to clearly articulate a meaningful mission statement. Your mission statement energises your team and leads to clear business strategies and objectives being crafted. These in turn translate into specific goals that drive your business forward each and every day.
This all sounds great and it would be wonderful if you had the time to do it. However, when you are up to your waist in alligators it is difficult to remember that your sole job purpose is to drain the swamp. Setting business goals is a necessary time-out exercise. You will never do it effectively if you are swamped with day-to-day stuff. A simple quadrant exercise will show you where you spend most of your time. Take a look at the diagram below and try to determine where you spend most of your time.
If you find that you are spending all of your time in the top right quadrant then there is something fundamentally wrong with the way in which you are operating your business. If everything is both urgent and important, then you are not creating the space you need to think strategically about your business and consider where you are going before marching off in what might ultimately be the wrong direction. Every hour of every day cannot be a crisis for you. If this is the way it is for you, you clearly need to hire someone to help carry the load.
If you spend most of your time in the bottom right quadrant it means that your focus is wrong or you are spending your time on the wrong activities. You cannot allow someone else’s lack of planning and forethought become an urgent activity for you. Furthermore, if it is not important, then perhaps it should not be you doing it at all. Delegate it to someone further down the chain of command or simply take it off the to-do list altogether if it is truly unimportant.
Nobody should be spending their time in the bottom left quadrant. If it is non-urgent and not important then it most likely does not require to be done at all. Certainly, you should not be spending your time here. If it is absolutely necessary, pass it on to a junior member of staff to deal with.
Smart business owners and CEO’s generally spend their time predominantly in the top left quadrant, occasionally dipping into the top right quadrant as it becomes necessary. They spend the vast majority of their time working on important stuff that is not urgent. They need the time and space to think and plan and then do. This is where proper goal setting takes place.
Goals generally get set at many different levels. Strategic goals will be ones that go to the heart of your business strategy and will be high level goals that explain where you are taking the business over time; the markets you will be participating in; the customers you wish to do business with; the product set you will be offering; your approach to doing business; your market share and profitability aspirations; the size and diversity of the team you wish to build to support the business.
You may also have operational goals for each functional area of your business such as Sales, Marketing, Operations, Human Resources Management and Finance. You will most certainly need to have team and/or individual goals that essentially carve up the business goals and make individuals responsible for delivering sub-goals that collectively deliver all of the company’s goals over a defined period of time.
You need to take goal setting seriously if you want it to translate into meaningful and expected results. Use the acronym SMART when you are setting goals for yourself and each staff member. You must understand the importance of the goals and the necessity to break them down into sub-goals that can be allocated to individual employees. These sub-goals should be clearly understood by your employees (Specific). Both you and your employees should always know if they have been achieved or not (Mmeasurable).
The goals and sub-goals should always be within the capability of employees to deliver (Achievable). The targets must be set at a level that allows reasonably competent people in your business to hit them (Realistic). Finally, the goals and sub-goals must have an agreed delivery date that everyone understands and subscribes to (Time Bound). If you do goal setting in this way there will be no ambiguity about your business goals and all of your employees can buy into them and work hard to ensure that they are met.
Remember, goal setting does not have to be a chore. If you want to keep it really simple you can choose to adopt the approach of Jinny Ditzler who wrote “Your Best Year Yet – a proven method for making the next 12 months your most successful ever”(Published by Harper Element 2006). Your Best Year Yet asks you challenging questions about your expectations, accomplishments and goals for the future.
It is not until you take time to sit down and really think about what you want out of the next year that you can start working towards your goals. Ditzler asks you to outline your accomplishments, disappointments, limitations, personal values, goals, your roles in life and shows you how to develop your own programme to achieving your goals and learning from your mistakes. It treats goal setting as a simple exercise that anyone can do. You just need to take the time out to do it, without interruption or distraction.