In her 1989 meditation on craft, The Writing Life, Pulitzer prize-winning writer Annie Dillard tells aspiring writers how to chop wood.
“Aim for the chopping block,” she says. “If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood, aim for the chopping block.”
Dillard, of course, is not really talking about wood. Or at least, not just about wood. She is talking, too, about writing. About aiming through the words themselves, past the words, to hit upon the core matter, the deeper mystery, the work’s goal.
By extension, we’re not talking about wood either, or writing for that matter, but goals.
Properly articulating the goals for your company and aligning those goals with measurable actions can open new ways for growth and success. By aiming past what seem like surface details, you can prioritize the larger changes you want to see take form in your organization, and end up with a cleaner cut.
Goals Are Just the Beginning
Every company is going to have particular areas of growth that they want to develop. Identifying those opportunities is essential, for certainly you can’t expect a bull’s-eye if you do not know where the target is. Any discussion of metrics really ought to begin with a detailed discussion of which business goals you are trying to measure. The ideas below are generalized, but yours should not be. Instead, think as specifically as you can about your industry and the challenges you face. These may be challenges associated with the region, with particular materials or with workforce considerations. Whatever they are, try to factor them into the goal-making so that the exercise is tailored to your company and is not just a thought experiment in business management.
So, take these goals as a kind of template and alter them in whatever way you need to until they begin to reflect your business’s current situations and needs.
- Increase Sales
- Increase Customer Engagement
- Lead Generation
- Customer Retention
- User registration
Once you’ve customized these common goals to reflect your organization more clearly, share them across all teams and functions, assuring that each member knows both what her position and expectations are, and how those expectations contribute to the larger picture.
Different Paths to Different Growth
It is a common misconception that all business grows in the same way. An increase in overall revenue is only one measure of growth, and it may not be the most accurate one. For example, a brand new start-up on the scene may sacrifice revenue growth in order to secure a greater share of the market. Companies that are more established might be looking to reward customer loyalty or to expand operations in new product directions. Sometimes, the growth may be a product of a new acquisition, the development of a new product or the opening of a new market. But growth can also result from changes on the production side that lower costs or improve operational efficiencies.
In order to track, monitor and encourage growth in these various areas, it is essential to understand that each avenue requires its own metric. So a metric designed to measure customer engagement is going to track site visits, content downloads, social media posts and landing page visits; whereas, a production-centered growth goal will look instead at units per order or speed from order to delivery.
Once you establish your overall business goals and appropriate ways to track them, it is important to break down those goals into measurable milestones. Think of milestones as steps along the path toward the goals. These are agreed-upon points of progress that each team should be hitting in a predetermined time frame. Milestones are important because they help teams to break down the overall goals into specific actions. They also act as a progress report for management, or for the organization as a whole. If any one team is having continued difficulty meeting a milestone, it may be valuable to reexamine the goal and see if it is truly feasible, or to revisit the strategy for meeting that goal.
Small Actions, Big Effect
When you’ve matched your business goals with metrics, you can then align your employees’ actions and evaluations to those goals as well. This is the key step in assuring that your business goals become fully integrated into the culture of the organization. In order for this to occur, you must ensure that your goals have some basic characteristics. Ask yourself, are they:
- Specific? Is it clear what is expected from managers and other team members? Specific goals should assign responsibility for the expectation, determine the timeline for the expectation and explain why this expectation is important.
- Measurable? Go back to your initial thoughts on metrics. How can you quantify the expectations? Are there actions or timelines that need to be attended to?
- Timely? Goals and expectations need to be situated to meet present concerns as well as looking to the future. Providing clear timelines and deadlines encourages a sense of urgency and rewards team members for implementing changes and actions right away.
- Relevant? Team members need to understand how this action or change is relevant to their day-to-day operations within the company. Conversely, they need to understand how their actions contribute to the company’s overall success.
Setting specific measurable goals for your company is the first step toward enacting change and encouraging future growth. Aligning metrics to those specific goals allow you to track and monitor your progress toward your planned success. Have questions about bringing your business metrics in line with your performance goals? Contact a Blueprint representative today.