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7 min read

The art of setting and achieving business goals

Learn how to set measurable, achievable business goals that guide your organization to succeed and grow in a challenging market.
From Team '23

Tempo Team

Establishing organizational goals is a smart business move that offers direction for every management decision. But business goals aren’t a one-and-done undertaking. Leaders must routinely review short- and long-term goals, verifying that they’re attainable and ensuring the company is on track for achievement. They must also monitor whether established goals still serve the company’s interests. 

By understanding goal-setting fundamentals, you can create a practical roadmap that promotes organizational growth and success, helping you evaluate effectiveness and notice when the company is veering off course. They can even show you how to right the ship. 

Whether you’re stepping into a senior management role or starting a new business from scratch, here’s what you need to know about goals.   

What are business goals?

Business goals define the accomplishments an organization seeks to achieve within a set period. These outcomes can be specific and short-term or broad and long-term. They take many forms but are generally intended to help company employees focus on a particular result, such as increasing revenue, growing the business, or improving customer relationships.

What are business objectives?

People often use the terms interchangeably, but goals and objectives differ significantly. Business goals propel a company toward a desired result. Business objectives outline the steps the organization takes to achieve these goals. They are actionable tasks with measurable outcomes. 

For example, your business goal may be to boost company revenue by 5%. Your objectives to achieve that target may include increasing new leads generated from two to three per week and closing one multimillion-dollar deal every quarter. 

Why are business goals important?

Operating a business without goals is like sailing a ship without a rudder; you’re moving but not really getting anywhere. 

Business goals are essential to organizational success, as they provide guidance, focus effort, and boost employee morale. With them, your organization will enjoy the following benefits:

  • Increased clarity: Explicit business goals help teams agree on shared priorities, ensuring everyone’s efforts contribute to the goal.

  • Additional guidance: They determine priorities, which help management make tough choices.

  • Sustained focus: They give a team focus, improve concentration and attention, and lead to greater productivity.

  • Faster growth: They help businesses expand and thrive, increasing growth potential. 

  • Additional accountability: Measurable goals allow employees to evaluate how their work and that of others contribute to outcomes.

  • Improved morale: Tangible goals motivate employees and increase their satisfaction by showing how their efforts impact company success. When workers are satisfied, employee retention is effortless. 

How to measure short-term and long-term business goals

Goals should never be arbitrary or based on pie-in-the-sky hopes. Instead, leadership should engage with management, staff, investors, and other stakeholders to review business strategies and justify them.

Once the company establishes its long- and short-term goals, leadership can map the path to achievement. The following steps will ensure yours are met:

  • Define each goal according to the SMART framework

  • Set objectives and key results (OKRs)

  • Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress and success

SMART framework

 A business goal must include five critical components:

  1. Specific: Clearly define the business goal.

  2. Measurable: Measure progress using an objective metric.

  3. Achievable: It may be challenging, but it should be reachable.

  4. Relevant: It should align with the company’s operations and business plan. 

  5. Time-bound: It should have a set deadline.

Here’s a SMART goal example: Within three months, management will increase rapport and trust among team members by 25%, measured by an anonymous survey. This will serve the organization’s business plan by unlocking employee potential and maximizing productivity.

Incorporating these elements creates a SMART goal that provides employees with a framework for success.

Objectives and key results (OKRs)

Once leaders establish SMART goals, they can outline the company’s achievement strategy using OKRs, which breaks them down into measurably defined business objectives and their outcomes. 

Similar to the SMART system, business objectives should be:

  • Ambitious but clearly and quantitatively defined with a set timeframe

  • Communicated to and understood by all employees and stakeholders

  • Flexible and routinely reviewed

If your objective is to double organic traffic to the company website by the end of the year, key results may include:

  • Improving website load time by 10% by the end of Q2

  • Reducing bounce rate by 15% over the next quarter

  • Producing eight SEO-optimized blog posts per month

  • Generating a new landing page for each product category by the end of Q3

Key performance indicators (KPI)

You must track your team’s progress to ensure goals are met. KPIs analyze and measure the granular factors that contribute to success so you can measure their efficacy. Good KPIs include: 

  • A specific measure

  • A target that matches the measure and the goal’s deadline

  • A data source providing a clear progress assessment

  • A regular reporting schedule delivering timely progress updates

  • An owner responsible for reporting progress

Challenges of developing business goals

You can still miss your target, even if you set perfect business goals with smart, achievable objectives and well-defined KPIs. Here are a few reasons your team may fail to achieve yours:

Other priorities took precedence

Technological advances, new market factors, policy changes – business priorities can shift for numerous reasons, affecting goals. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it can improve outcomes.

Quarterly and semi-annual reviews ensure these new priorities take precedence for the right reasons and that the ensuing changes benefit the organization. Reviews also let you reevaluate goals, ensuring they still help the company, customers, and investors. If they don’t, it’s time to perform a course correction and get your team back on track. 

Achievement timelines and action items weren’t clear

You’ve set OKRs and KPIs, but did you make a plan to execute the goal? Without tangible steps and milestones, there is no accountability or means of measuring progress. Set your team up for success by breaking down goals, especially long-term ones, into tasks with estimated resource demand and critical delivery dates to keep them moving forward. 

It’s a big job, but project management and productivity tools can do the heavy lifting to keep things organized.

Budget cuts

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you lose access to the finances needed to support goal achievement. Maybe the company didn’t meet revenue targets, or there were unexpected expenses.

You’ve already determined these goals are vital to the organization, so if the budget tightens, assess whether they can be scaled back while still approaching the desired outcome. If shelving is the only option, develop new goals to suit the budget. If the company experiences an unexpected windfall, you can revisit and expand them to suit the new circumstances.

People are stretched too thin

No matter how successful the company is, it can’t do everything. Leadership must balance priorities to avoid setting more goals than the team can handle. Quarterly reviews allow management to evaluate progress and ensure teams focus on those that make the most sense. If employees are fighting too many fires, leaders can adopt strategies to help focus on those that are high-priority first.

Insufficient organizational tools

Stay on track and motivated to accomplish a goal by leveraging project management software that keeps your teams organized. Project management software makes it easy to adjust to shifting priorities, automatically realigning schedules and resources so there’s no question about what has to happen and when. It’s a small investment that goes a long way.

Tempo makes setting goal-setting easy

Setting goals is a demanding process. Fortunately, Tempo has the tools to help. The Strategic Roadmaps application plots short- and long-term organizational strategies and objectives onto a roadmap, helping you chart progress and determine your next move. Portfolio Manager can establish a plan to achieve your goals, tracking timelines and resources to keep your team on track.