blog overview
Frans Riemersma, 03 Feb '16

Build Traction With Your Strategy. Map Your Goals on 4 Levels

Prioritize your goals during your coffee break. Label your goals as visionary, effectiveness, efficiency or sprint goals. Smell your strategy rubber hitting the road.

Executing a strategy is a struggle. It often feels like going in circles.

Attendees of our strategy workshops usually bring their current plans and goals along. They generously share their strategy in presentations, spreadsheets or on sheets of paper. So far so good.

The real challenge is to determine what comes first. Where to start? Somehow all goals are equal, but some are more equal than others. If you cannot tell left from right, your strategy will have no direction. Your team will go nowhere. Your company is burning money doing cool donuts.

Don’t panic, you are not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority.

  • 80% of marketers incorrectly begin with tactics instead of goals.
  • 71% of marketers are falling short of their revenue targets by adopting the wrong marketing strategies.
  • 3% of marketing executives say social media had made a ‘very high’ contribution to profitability. Brands do not have clear objectives when it comes to social media and are failing to align them with their wider marketing strategy.

Goals without hierarchy are just noise

During our workshops a wide variety of strategy related questions pop up.

  • Should I have one main goal or several?
  • How many goals should my strategy have in total?
  • What are the different types of goals?
  • How many levels can I add to my strategy before it becomes unmanageable?
  • Where do I put my managers’ and my teams’ targets?
  • What should my employee satisfaction goals link to?
  • What is the difference between goals and objectives?
  • Where do I include the company vision?
  • Do goals support strategies or the other way around?

Agreed, the confusing terminology around strategy is not helping. How can you make sense of terms like mission, vision, plans, goals, objectives, tactics and strategies?

Let’s deal with the confusing terminology first and have a look at two explanations. Here is one approach.

  • Goal – Win the war.
  • Objective – Conquer country A, B and C in 6 months.
  • Strategy – Attack uphill*.
  • Tactics – Fat guys behind rocks, skinny ones behind trees*.

* The objective of one person can be the strategy of the other.

Here is another approach, the “Why > What > How” model.

  • Mission – Why are we doing this?
  • Goals – What do we want to accomplish?
  • Tactics – How will we achieve our goals?

Regardless of the terminology used, it is striking that both models are hierarchies or cascading trees. In both cases goals and their supporting objectives are at the heart of the models.

Label your goals and objectives to create a bird’s eye view

To keep matters simple and practical, we strongly advice to break your strategy down to the smallest denominator: goals.

Goals are the rubber with which your plan hits the road. Without them, all planning efforts will be for nothing. It will be hard to make your plan actionable. You cannot track progress. You cannot report. You cannot drive ownership. You cannot align. You cannot be effective, or successful.

Our favorite way to classify, label and cascade goals is this one.

1. Visionary goals – Define the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

2. Effectiveness goals – What are the right things to reach the BHAG?

3. Efficiency goals – How can we do things right to achieve our higher goals?

4. Sprint/project goals – What are the short term, actionable goals?

Prioritize your goal backlog on 4 levels

We bring the models and goal types together in our workshops. The exercise helps to create a plan that cascades into actionable personal (or team) goals. At all levels you should not settle for goals any less specific than SMART.

Level 1 – Visionary goals – the Why

On the highest level you formulate your highest goal. Often these are formulated as ambitions, aspirations in an “I have a dream”-like way. To avoid confusion in the company this is typically one goal. Although the goal is generally very ambitious, it should be made as concrete as possible.

  • “Have an NPS score of 33 before end of the fiscal year”, instead of “Excellent customer experience”.
  • “Have a market share of 25% before the end of the fiscal year”, instead of “Be market leader”.
  • “Win the industry innovation award for 3 of our 5 product lines” instead of “Be recognized as industry innovator”.

Level 2 & 3 – Effectiveness goals – the What

What are the results required to achieve the visionary goal? Effectiveness goals normally cover one or two levels in the goal hierarchy.

  • “Make 50 sales appointments in next quarter.”
  • “Generate 50% more website traffic before end of the fiscal year.”
  • “Increase in store presence by 30% before end of the fiscal year.”

Level 3 & 4 – Efficiency goals – the How

Effectiveness goals can be achieved in a highly inefficient way. In economic downtimes or competitive, commoditized markets efficiency goals are key. So define how you can get more of the effectiveness goals for less. Staff needs skills, tools and methods to grow and improve productivity.

  • “Certify our staff in Just in Time principles and reduce the process cycle time by 15% in Q2.”
  • “Reduce costs per order by 20% before the end of the year.”
  • “Ensure delivered products contain all parts in 95% of the orders.”

Level 4 & 5 – Sprint or Project goals

Let your strategy hit the road. Go KanBan style. Break down your goals into quarterly, monthly, weekly goals or even sprints. Build and manage your goal backlog, or Portfolio backlog. And do not forget to assign owners.

  • “Certify the operations team for the Just in Time principles in March.”
  • “Make 10 sales appointments in B2B Manufacturing in next sprint.”
  • “Increase in store presence by 11% in May by contracting 6 new partners.”

Break down your strategy in a few seconds and make it actionable

Grab a coffee and a donut. Collect the goals and objectives held across your entire company. Don’t be shocked how disconnected they are. Just label each of them as Visionary goalsEffectiveness goalsEfficiency goals and Team goals. Your strategy will surface automatically. You will see a cascading goal tree growing in front of your eyes by the time you finish your donut.