On Goals and Objectives


Accomplishment over time requires a “zooming in” process, which begins with clear statements of the purpose of the organization, its principle aspirations and the values that govern its modus operundi. These three – mission, vision and values – jointly highlight that which the organization holds as most important and provide context within which results can be defined and rationally pursued. The “zooming in” process provides a means for assuring that end results and the system that produces those results are clearly aligned with the purpose, aspirations and values of the organization itself. [1]

Capture - Zoom in Text Box


Dreamstime - Zoom Lens with Caption“Zooming in”, Goals can be established in alignment with the context provided by mission, vision and values. Goals are typically rather broad statements of organizational ends to be achieved – statements like “become a world class producer of … by …” or “double sales by …”. Goals address both what is to be achieved and when achievement is expected. Of course, the “what” needs to be unambiguously defined. [2]

For example, a manufacturing firm might establish a Goal to become and remain financially Sustainable: that is, capable of “thriving in perpetuity”. [3] Continuous financial viability is certainly one aspect of “thriving in perpetuity”. The financial aspect of “thriving” might then be quantified as “maintaining a sufficient return on capital employed to justify the attendant risk, taken across the business cycle.”

Goals need be chosen with considerable care. A manufacturing business is a complex system of processes, practices and procedures that may interact in a non-linear fashion. Accordingly, Goals must be formulated carefully, to assure that they are mutually consistent.


“Zooming in” further, goals are pursued through some number of aligned Objectives. [4]  Objectives are more limited and specific results to be attained by a specified time, often corresponding to a business planning cycle. The attainment of an Objective frequently represents a milestone toward the attainment of an organizational Goal.

Deploying Objectives

It should be clear that Objectives provide the building blocks through which Goals are realized over time. Goals represent what is to be achieved; while Objectives are part of the how those Goals will be achieved. Within the organization, Objectives are deployed through assignment of responsibility for timely attainment of each Objective to a specific individual or portion of the organization. As building blocks, Objectives are almost always interdependent with other objectives. The pursuit of Objectives requires human, financial and other resources.

Robert Kaplan and David Norton’s Strategy Maps [5] provide a convenient tool for communicating the deployment of Objectives, corresponding responsibilities and resource allocations across a planning cycle or series of planning cycles. Read from top down, Strategy Maps diagram the deployment of specific, quantified Objectives to the sales and marketing activities required, the business processes needed and the resources required. Of course, the Strategy Map is a high – level diagram. Specific action plans are needed at each level in the diagram.

Here is a simple strategy map spanning two planning periods (4Q 2014 and 1Q 2015):

Capture - Strategy Map 2 - Excel


Achievement of an Objective in 1Q 2015 may require sales and marketing actions in 4Q 2014 as well as in 1Q 2015. Those sales and marketing activities may rely on other business processes in either or both periods. The necessary resources need to be provided for both periods.

For example, consider an Objective to increase revenues by x% in 1Q 2015. Suppose that management decides to pursue that Objective by increasing the number of field sales people. The additional sales people need to be recruited, hired, trained, supervised, as well as provided with sales collateral, cell phones and so on. Clearly, many marketing, sales and support processes will be employed – and resources utilized – long before the Objective (increased revenues, in this example) will be realized.

For Smaller Manufacturers

The important thing in all of this is the thought processes: (1) “Zooming in” to align Goals (hence Objectives) with the purpose, aspirations and values of the organization, and (2) Providing a clear structure by which Objectives can be achieved in a timely manner. The amount of formal planning (hence paperwork) involved depends on the size, complexity and culture of your organization.

Chuck - France 2012-3Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated

…  Chuck Harrington



P.S: Contact me when your organization is serious about thriving in the 21st century … CH

This blog and associated website (www.JeraSustainableDevelopment.com) are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome. New blog posts are published on weekly.

Zoom Lens Photo: Dreamstime, www.dreamstime.com

[1] For more on zooming in and out, see Zooming Again!, this blog, http://jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2014/08/07/zooming-again/

[2] The Business Dictionary defines Goals:  “An observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed timeframe.” For more, see: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/goal.html#ixzz3VEO5NeOz

[3] “thriving in perpetuity” is from Adam Werbach, Strategy for Sustainability, Harvard Business Press (2009), page 9

[4] The Business Dictionary defines Objectives: “A specific result that a person or system aims to achieve within a time frame and with available resources. In general, objectives are more specific and easier to measure than goals. Objectives are basic tools that underlie all planning and strategic activities. Read more at: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/objective.html#ixzz3VEOk3sjC

[5] Robert Kaplan and David Norton, Strategy Maps, Harvard Business School Press (2004)



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  1. Pingback: Goal Setting for a Sustainable Future | Jera Sustainable Development

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