Anatomy of a Goal
Updated: Mar 30
It's strange how common #goalsetting is in our lives, both personally and professionally, but how rarely they are created effectively. In this article, I will discuss the role goals play in a business and break down the anatomy of an effectively written goal.
Why Do We make Goals?
Goals allow us to create moments in time that don't yet exist. They are responsible for the vector our lives are lived on, and they satiate the inherent human desire to have purpose and grow. We want to become better, we want more opportunities, more freedom, and to be proud of what we've accomplished.
Without goals, we'd wander through life without meaning and reach a point of stagnation.
Considering businesses are built by and made up of people, they work the same way. The future of any business is dependent on the goals they create. So it's pivotal that business goals are written with people in mind.
The Big Picture
Before we look at the pieces of an individual goal, let's take a step back and examine the big picture. In a previous blog post, I wrote about the 5 reasons vision is necessary for any business. In that post, I defined a #Vision as a singular, long-term goal (something that can apply to our personal lives, too).
When a Vision is created, it's natural and healthy to create smaller goals (milestones) that make the large goal feel more attainable. When we do this in our personal lives, the connection between smaller goals and our large goal may feel natural. But in the case of businesses, which generally represent groups of people, it needs to be spelled out to ensure each individual thoroughly understands how the milestone connects to the Vision.
When there is misalignment between a milestone and a Vision (real or perceived, it doesn't matter), there is the potential to lose the support of the given individual, weakening the business's vector and slowing its progress.
This connection needs to be communicated to your customers too; not just your employees. In the words of #SimonSinek, "People don't buy what you do; people buy why you do it." And if customers can't make sense of how a goal or decision connects to your Vision, they will no longer buy why you do what you do.
But let's assume you have a goal where its intention aligns perfectly with your long-term Vision. From there, we can jump into the #anatomyofagoal.
The two Parts
Every goal has two parts. And those two parts exist in every single goal and are always prioritized in the same order.
Those two parts are: the story and the measurement.
The story represents what the context of the goal, what it is trying to accomplish, and always has a higher priority. Stories should never have any numbers or other quantifiable information in them.
The measurement defines how you know when you've finished the story, and is always subordinate to it. Measurements are strictly quantifiable and generally arbitrary guesses.
A story without a measurement is too vague. How will you know when you accomplish the goal? A measurement without a story is too inflexible, and can easily take the focus off of the intention the goal had to begin with.
1. Personal Example
a. Goal Story: To be healthier so that I can do harder hikes
b. Goal Measurement: To lose 15 pounds
In this example, we can clearly see that "to be healthy" alone is too vague of a goal. If the entire goal was to "to lose 15 pounds," it's too inflexible, since the person may take unhealthy actions to achieve the number. When they're combined, they complement each other perfectly.
But note, this person may only lose 12 pounds and be able to do the hikes s/he hoped to do. The goal was still accomplished, the measurement simply acted as an arbitrary target.
2. Busiess Example
a. Goal Story: To create an online community so that social entrepreneurs have a place to collaborate
b. Goal Measurement: To have a Facebook page with 1,000 members
It's the same idea for business. "To create an online community" is too vague, as there's no focus on which platform, whether the community has to do with impressions, member activity, fundraising, and so on. But creating a Facebook page with 1,000 members is too inflexible and, alone, it doesn't tell us whether we have a community or not. You may have a page with 1,000 members that never engage. When they're combined, they complement each other well, as it's easily understood that these members need to be acting as a community, so new threads, shares, and post engagements are all automatically considered necessary in reaching the goal.
If you can write goals that clearly align with long-term plans and include a story and a measurement, you're nailing it! Keep it up. It's always a good idea to take a step back and make sure we're doing things correctly.
If you're feeling lost in a cloud and want to find long-term focus, OneHive offers a professional program to help businesses Articulate Vision. In this program, we will help you create a genuine Vision, Mission, and set of Values, then show you marketing techniques to communicate it out into the world.
If you have thoughts or opinions on this piece, please comment below, and don't forget to check out our other articles and podcast interviews!