Setting Goals You Won’t “Want” to Miss

Game Recap

Earlier I defined what I thought make a great mission and vision.

A mission is the Tweet of strategy and describes your overall purpose or service to humanity. Your mission should not reference your current product or service.

Your vision is the story (or blog) of where you intend on going. A good story has a beginning, a middle, and a strong ending. It also should touch on why; this will fuel your emotional commitment.

Introduction to Goals

Goals are where things get a little tricky. Not because goals are inherently difficult to understand, but because setting good goals is tricky. There is a big difference between what you think you want and what you really need. As well, goals can contradict each other or support each other.

This is why I think having a compelling and clear mission and a vision are critical. Equally important is making sure that everyone knows and understands them; because every strategic goal relates back to the vision which relates back to the mission.

If you don’t know what the big picture is, it will be difficult make the right decisions for a small team and next to impossible to delegate execution to a large team without micro-managing every detail.

Someone once told me that if you have big goal and assign a task or project to me; in essence this task or project then becomes my goal. I can then delegate part of the work and it becomes someone else’s goals, etc., etc. One problem with this thinking is that the people several steps removed from the original goal lose the context of what they are doing. But there is another related issue that is even more insidious.

Game Conflicts

If I have a big goal to increase profits from 5% of gross revenue to 7% of gross revenue next year so we can invest in a new product offering as part of the vision, it is pretty clear what the desired outcome is and why. However, management will then attempt to set sub-goals and tie performance management to those sub-goals.

Say you have a manufacturing operation and the sub-goal of the parts inventory group is to reduce the amount of capital tied up in parts sitting in the warehouse. You buy the parts and put them on the shelf until they are needed. One way for the parts inventory group to meet their goal is to stop stocking parts in advance of anticipated work and just order the parts that are needed short-term; just in time supply if everything is working right and a little late when things aren’t. The parts group is going to meet their targets.

The problem is, manufacturing has a goal of increasing production by 20%. When they run out of parts, the entire production line is shut down. The parts group is meeting their goal, but the manufacturing group is constantly being short changed and missing their production targets. The two managers are butting heads and things are getting worse.

This is all caused by the different groups losing sight of the larger goal.

Jack Stack gives a similar “real” example in the business classic “The Great Game of Business“. Their solution, performance goals should be set at a very high level only (company or business unit) and then everyone should work on accomplishing the same, clear goals. Sure you have some sub-goals and projects to accomplish the actual work, but everyone is getting rewarded for the same performance goal.

Get What You Need

If you are focused on your mission and vision first, it becomes much clearer what is needed as opposed to what is wanted. What do you need to accomplish to make the vision happen? Everything else is a want.

Wants are fleeting. They don’t satisfy you long-term. They are consumption based. It can be difficult to motivate people to achieve goals that are just wish lists.

If you have a mission you believe in and a vision that is compelling for you; goals that are needed to make these things happen are self-motivating. This is powerful stuff because when you achieve your goals, you are getting closer to making the vision a reality which then fulfills your mission which is making the world better in some way.

Most people find it hard to stay motivated (long-term) by money alone so keeping this chain of why you are doing things intact gives you the emotional boost; true engagement. Oddly enough, the money then seems to take care of itself.

Professional athletes don’t focus on the money on their way up, they focus on the game first. The money happens when they are good at the game.


Setting SMART goals is important.

Setting goals that resonate with everyone is more important. Goals must engage at both the logical level (they make sense) and at the emotional level (they have built in motivation).

Sure you can use the carrot and stick to get a donkey to work, but I would rather have a horse that wants to run because it wants to play the game I’ve set up.

This is the way to set goals you won’t want to miss.

By | 2017-04-04T14:48:13+00:00 November 23rd, 2010|Categories: Business Strategy, Doug's Blog, Mindset and Motivation|

About the Author:

Doug Wagner is an entrepreneur, President and Co-founder of Sunwapta Solutions. Sunwapta's mission is to help businesses transform from surviving to thriving, sustainable growth. From strategy to implementation, this means marketing, sales, managing your brand and delivering consistent value. Get more clients and keep them.