How to Track Business Goals… and Crush Objectives
Any business that sets clear, compelling, and actionable goals is bound to find itself on a path to rewarding and sustainable results. But setting measurable goals is just one part of the process. It’s equally important to track those goals regularly and ensure there is a system in place to identify when things are veering off course… and how to fix it. This article will break down a proven way to do just that.
Fans of the sitcom classic Seinfeld might remember the great bit about a rental car company failing to honor Jerry’s reservation for a midsize car. Upon learning there were no such cars available at the moment and, accordingly, that his reservation meant nothing, an incredulous Jerry offered a punchline that was equally funny and astute: “See, you know how to take the reservation. You just don’t know how to HOLD the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take ‘em.”
We share the above because, well, it’s funny. More importantly, though, there's a certain comparison to that scenario with respect to setting organizational goals, and it's this: the key to achieving goals is regularly tracking goals. As the joke (kind of) goes, any business can just set ‘em. But failing to track goals, review them, and report on them makes it extremely difficult for a business to know if things are progressing appropriately to reach those goals. It’s even more difficult if others in the organization aren't aware of the goals or the purpose behind them.
In fact, according to a study from the Economist, as many as 90% of businesses fail to reach strategic goals because they fail to get the buy-in of the rest of the organization. In many cases, goals just roll downhill from the C-suite or Senior Leadership Team with little (if any) context to team members on how those goals tie to the organization’s vision and mission… or how those team members are even meant to support the goals.
Safe to say (and, presumably, Jerry would agree), there’s really nothing funny about any of that.
So the first order of business is ensuring we set goals that are meaningful. They need to be aligned with the company strategy or vision, and everyone should understand the role they play in helping to achieve these goals. This keeps people accountable to the goals… and each other. (We’re big on accountability around here.)
Business professionals and entrepreneurs who are focused on achieving growth and success for their organization will find themselves much further along using the right goal setting and tracking strategies. We’ll share some of these below; you’ll also find great value in checking out the Scorecard tool found in our Ninety platform.
First, a Few Words About Business Goals…
Business goals are the overall accomplishments you want to achieve that support your organization’s larger vision. To ensure these goals are meaningful to anyone who may have a hand in supporting them, keep in mind the principles of a SMART goal — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. (More on all of this to come in a future blog post.) Proper goal construction ensures that all parties understand who's involved, how success will be measured, what resources are needed, how it serves the organization as a whole, and when it needs to be completed.
At Ninety, we set 90-day goals for every level of our organization — goals for the entire company, the leadership team, every department, and for each of our team members. We call these goals Rocks, and we’re really intent on making them SMART and tracking them toward completion.
Business goals take on a variety of forms:
- Financial — such as revenue, margin, and profit
- KPIs — such as paying companies, paying users, and Net Promoter Score
- Awards — such as earning Great Place to Work®
- Competitive — such as increasing your market share
- Offerings — such as new products or services
Creating clear and compelling goals increases your probability of progressing through the organizational Stages of Development and moving from where you are to where you want to be. Whether aspirational or motivational, clear and compelling goals aligned with your longer-term vision:
- Provide a clear picture of what success looks like
- Define priorities and explain why leadership makes certain decisions
- Align individuals, teams, and departments across the whole organization
- Provide a methodology to track and measure success
- Allow us opportunities to celebrate and reward performance
Well-constructed SMART goals are guaranteed to improve your organization. While it may feel at times like there’s a long road ahead, the measured and marked progress you track along the way helps ensure you’re on the right path… or highlights the warning signs that can help you course-correct your approach.
Common Challenges in Tracking Goals
OK, before we delve into tactics and tools for tracking goals, let’s get this on the table first — tracking goals takes real work. Here are a few challenges:
- The goal(s) are unrealistic, complicating the ability to meaningfully track them
- Communication on progress is lacking, leading to a lack of motivation that can thwart reaching the goal
- Scattered data capture and fractured analysis across many systems
Imagine how hard it is to track a goal, along with its targets and key performance indicators (KPIs), when the milestones and other related inputs and data reside in multiple places — Google Sheets, random apps, spreadsheets, or (gasp!) on paper. It’s enough just to wrangle all of that together, much less analyze it effectively so a report can be shared with everyone invested in that goal.
This is where the power of a cloud-based Business Operating System (BOS) platform like Ninety makes all the difference. First, it presents a single place to store all your goals, whether they’re short-term or long-term efforts or even those aspirational, well-down-the-line goals we call Compelling and Audacious Goals.
Tracking Goals Motivates Teams
Reaching organizational goals — whether short-term or long-term — is a surefire way to motivate people and galvanize teams. But sharing information along the way is critical. Take a lofty revenue goal, for example, one that has potential profit for the entire organization tied to it. If it’s front of mind and in full view at regular intervals, people will rally around every last milestone to ensure it’s reached.
But if tracking that goal is an activity that only resides with a few, it loses its significance with others. Activities in support of the goal could sputter or cease altogether. People may even assume it’s a goal that is out of reach because it hasn’t been discussed in weekly or monthly meetings for some time.
All of that, of course, makes it much harder to achieve the goal.
In keeping with Pearson’s Law (above), we believe it’s important to create (and coach) the habit of regular analysis and reporting to accelerate the rate of improvement in reaching goals. And equally important? Celebrating every key milestone along the way. Recognizing the wins earned as a team or organization is a key component of a thriving culture, one that keeps team members excited about the work done today and the prospects for even greater success down the road.
Track Measurable Goals with Defined Deadlines
The beauty of SMART goals is they foster the transparency organizations need to keep everyone rowing in the same direction. By making the goal specific and measurable — and setting a deadline for achieving it — a framework is created for creating all the milestones needed to ladder up to that goal.
An example of a SMART annual goal would read something like this: “Our goal is to acquire 10,000 new paid subscriptions in the next year. We’ll accomplish this goal by aggressively promoting free trials on our website and social media channels (looking at you here, Marketing department), increasing our advertising spend by 20%, adding to our customer support team by 10% (go get ‘em, Client Success Team!), and using our email and affiliate programs for lead generation activities.”
Taking the example further, each of these measurable efforts is then turned into a quarterly goal (or, at Ninety, a Rock) owned by a department. Most of these goals involve more than one person, and some even involve people from several departments. This is why it's almost essential that there’s a system — better yet, a cloud-based, 24/7 platform — that makes it easy to agree on who is responsible for what and crystal clear on when things are supposed to be done. This helps make it obvious when goals are on track or off track.
That’s a specific, SMART Rock with a defined timeline for “Done!” What’s more, everyone in the organization knows about it, gets why it’s important, and understands whether or not they're needed to take it from dream to reality. For the sake of the example, we’ll presume it’s attainable, as well. Heck, let’s just say it’s a slam dunk. (We made it up, after all!)
As we shared, the milestones set to help achieve this goal pertain to many team members across various departments. Consequently, it's pretty helpful when all this data is stored and readily available. This way, progress on the associated milestones is available when each of the accountable or responsible team members meets with their team leader during their Weekly Team Meeting (you have those right?). You know, those weekly meetings that have a time-tested, proven agenda, that foster accountability, develop team health and connectivity, and make it almost easy to Get Smart Stuff Done. Those weekly meetings where we check on the progress of our goals, examine KPIs and data in our respective Scorecards, and identify Issues that need to be resolved.
The sum total of these tactics, disciplines, and tools makes it easy for us to stay informed and on track and to identify the need to go the extra mile if things go off track so we turn our organization into a goal-scoring machine. That last part is pretty important because sometimes, unavoidably, there are certain agreements we might not be able to meet without a little help. That’s why “Extra Mile” is one of our Core Values. It’s a display of support that can make all the difference in helping others achieve goals or complete tasks.
The Scorecard: A Key Tool to Achieving GoalsOnce organizational goals are set for several increments, it’s time to establish processes for tracking their progress. Make data your superpower and tie your goals to quantifiable metrics whenever possible. Ninety’s Scorecard makes it easy to collect company, team, and individual data points. Three components make up the Scorecard:
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) keep track of how we’re getting our day-to-day work done.
- Targets show points below, above, or equal; this is where the team leader and team members agree if there's an Issue.
- Time frames can be weekly, trailing 4-week, monthly, trailing 13-week, quarterly, and annual — this allows us to see trends at both the micro and macro levels.
There are a few core disciplines that we recommend adopting to achieve a great Scorecard. For starters, recognize that KPIs aren’t the only data points to track, but they are the most important, regularly recurring indicators of how teams and individuals perform relative to their agreements. Set targets based on what everyone agrees is likely a problem. That can be above, below, or equal to the target depending on the KPI’s nature. If things veer off target, generate an Issue and solve it. Lastly, as a best pratice, every KPI needs someone committed to updating it before the Weekly Team Meeting. (We’ll assume you’re going to have these meetings for all the wonderful reasons we shared in the previous section.)
Tracking Goals Will Have You Tracking toward Success
One of the great things about Ninety's Rocks tool is that it makes it super easy for you to record things once, monitor your progress, and document done versus not.
At Ninety, we’re fond of saying we make building a great organization almost easy because our platform contains everything you need to set the goal, track the goal, and then either celebrate the achievement of getting it done or do a retrospective on why it didn’t happen. Over time, the platform provides you and your colleagues with a visual record of how you did at the company level, the department level, the team level, and the individual level in living up to some of your most important agreements: your goals.
Has your company turned into a great goal-scoring machine? Are you and your colleagues marching 90 days at a time from the top to every edge of your Responsibilities Chart? If not, wouldn’t you like to?
As we’ve hopefully made clear, the power of a cloud-based BOS is it does more than simply ensure everyone knows their role in setting, tracking, and scoring your goals and Rocks. It also ensures that everyone in your organization is focused, aligned, and thriving.