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Setting and Achieving Performance Goals for your Business

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” You’ve probably seen this Antoine de Saint-Exupéry quote on one of those office decor posters of motivational sayings. And let’s be honest, you probably tend to ignore those posters – if not roll your eyes at them altogether. But just because you’ve seen Saint-Exupéry’s words typed on a cheesy photo of a mountain doesn’t mean they’re another cliche to ignore. His statement is 100% accurate. Without establishing goals, you can’t have a successful business or even be aware of your company’s accomplishments. This is your fool-proof guide to setting your goals and what you need to do to achieve them.

When and how to set goals

It’s best practice to set goals both annually and throughout the year. You can set them quarterly or monthly, depending on what works for your business. Yearly targets provide an overarching framework for what your team is working toward, while the monthly/quarterly goals help you manage shorter-term projects. They can also serve as stepping stones that help you reach your overall objectives for the year.

As you set your goals, remember to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Collaborate with other stakeholders and teams to get their perspectives on what they would like to see for the company. As you brainstorm, it’s helpful to work with a SWOT analysis. It can be a great reference point to understand the current state of your business. The analysis also helps with identifying the areas in which you’re already succeeding and others where you could use improvement.

Tips for setting goals:

  • Prioritize: Having too many goals at once is a recipe for disaster, so prioritize the ones you think are most impactful

  • Simplify: When writing your goals, be clear and concise so that everyone understands them to avoid confusion and misinterpretations

  • Inspire: Ambitious yet attainable goals will energize and motivate you and your team

  • Collaborate: Get input from a variety of teams and positions throughout the company to make sure different perspectives are represented

  • Broadcast: Make sure all teams and employees are aware of the set goals

Using an objective and key results (OKR) framework is helpful to keep in mind as you define your goals. After all, there’s a reason why it’s implemented by some of the biggest, most successful companies in the world – Amazon, Netflix, Google, just to name a few. They’re especially useful for shorter-term goals. Benefits of using OKRs include:

  • Keeping everyone aligned and focused

  • Making it easier to track progress because of the established metrics

  • They usually have shorter goal cycles, which allows for more flexibility

  • Team members feel more connected to and engaged with the company

Measuring your goals

Once you’ve outlined your goals, you must choose key performance indicators (KPIs). Without KPIs, it’s nearly impossible to track your progress or determine whether or not you’ve hit your targets. You can use KPIs you’ve used in the past and add some new ones too. The most important KPIs to track vary based on industry and business model, but you should shoot for picking KPIs that relate to your OKRs. It can be tempting to go with an area you’ve traditionally measured and where your business excels, but that’s not going to get you closer to achieving your objectives. You need to pick KPIs that are meaningful to you and your stakeholders. Refer to your OKRs because they’ll help you decide on the metrics that matter most. It helps you whittle down your list so you’re focusing on the most salient metrics instead of having a long list of KPIs.

Accountability and metrics

One of the main reasons why individuals and companies fail to achieve their goals is because of a lack of accountability. Similar to how you might need a gym buddy to make sure you show up for your workouts, you need a system to ensure everyone is doing their part at work. You need to designate a person or team to track and report on your selected KPIs. Not only does this ensure that your KPIs are acted on, but it also motivates your team. When you give someone a responsibility, they have a vested interest. They’ll want to show up every day and work on measuring that KPI and will want to have positive news to report back to the rest of the team. Your employees are invested in their personal performance and success at work. Involving them in the process bridges the gap between the company’s goals and someone’s career objectives.

In conclusion – the importance of setting performance goals

You can’t expect your company to achieve greatness without setting goals. Establishing targets gives you and your team direction so everyone knows what they’re working toward and what they should be doing. Setting SMART, ambitious goals using OKRs and meaningful KPIs can make your company more productive and accomplish more, unlocking a new level of success.


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