How to set goals

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Graphic showing path from current to vision

One of the areas that seems to be most challenging to people, groups, and organizations is finding and using an effective goal setting process. The graphic above is the process used by in-the-know businesses and interestingly enough, by educators and professional athletes.

It’s a journey

The best way to think of the entire goals setting and achieving process is that it’s like a road trip. Before we get into that, there is one critical step that is not on the map. Values have to come first. After the initial set of values is determined – I say initial as they can change or evolve, especially in groups – road trip planning can begin in earnest.

Step 1 – Where are you heading?

That would be your vision. In a real road trip the vision is usually a real place. In any other kind of goal setting process it is most likely an ideal future state. That’s ok, moving toward it – the journey – is the important part. Having a compelling, vivid, if not realistically achievable vision will keep you moving forward. You should have one overarching vision for your life or your group or organization and then sub-visions that describe and keep your vision alive in specific areas.

Example – A company called YourBestFriend has an overall vision of a world where everyone had at least one good friend. To borrow from Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy – Everyone needs a person. They also had a vision specific to customer service and another vision around company culture and how they treated each other. The big vision and all the sub-visions were based on their values and all the visions aligned driving them in one direction. In addition, everyone in the company knew what the visions were, so everyone kept moving in the same direction.

Step 2 – Figure out where you are now.

On a road trip, you probably know where you are starting from. Uhm.. I’m at home. If you are setting goals for an organization, knowing where you are, in relation to your vision, may be a bit more difficult. Regardless of the challenge it’s a critical step.

Step 3 – Choose a destination.

Not the final destination. Set your goals as if they were towns, cities or stops of interest along the way. If I’m driving across the continent I’m going to plan the trip with specific stops in mind. Set your goals as specific, measurable, achievable (and acceptable), realistic and time-framed plans for your trip. (Yes, that’s a SMART goal.)

If I want to go to Toronto – lets pretend that’s the vision – I might set a goal of driving to Calgary on the first day. That’s specific, measurable, achievable/acceptable, realistic (in summer) and I have time framed it.

In an organization I might set a goal of increasing inside sales by 20% by the next quarter or of ensuring 50% of employees take one new training session within the next two months.

Step 4 – Chunk it up!

Objectives are the smaller steps you take to reach your goal. Get gas – that’s an objective. Buy a map – that’s an objective. Some would say these are also tasks and they would be right. Objective are the small, behavioural things that you have to do to reach your goal.

In an organization objectives might include – have a meeting with all staff to share the goals to gain buy-in or send sales staff on training.

The last step is documenting your travels. One thing I notice, a lot, is that organization fail to document in a way that makes sense. A lot of the time they become their own worst enemy simply by failing to report out based on the above process. Here’s an outline to follow for reporting progress.

Progress reporting

Report on each area that you set goals in and start with the vision is each area.

Area 1 ___________________.

Our vision in this area is ________________.

Current situation in this area _______________________.

Our goals in this area – list each separately.

Goal 1  _________________________________.

Objective 1 for goal 1   _____________________. (You don’t have to get too granular when reporting but getting really granular in planning is a good idea.)

Progress on objective 1  __________________________.

Progress on objective 2  __________________________.

Progress on objective 3 __________________________.

Progress on goal overall __________________________.

New current situation ___________________________.


Given that it’s homelessness action week we can use as an example, a common goal for non-profits and government organizations concerned with poverty and homelessness.

Area – Affordable housing

Our vision in this area is that every person and family in BC has access to affordable and safe housing.

Current situation in this area is that 40% of persons and families pay more than they can afford for housing, leaving them at risk of homelessness.

Our goals in this area.

Goal 1 – Raise awareness through educating the public.

Objective 1 for goal 1 –  Create a set of infographics that explain housing affordability issues in a way that is really easy to understand.

Progress on objective 1 – Three infographics were produced and distributed through social and regular media.

Progress on goal and new current situation for this area as demonstrated by an online survey is that we increased the public’s awareness and understanding of the challenges in this area by 25%. Whoo-hoo! You might want to leave that last bit out.

What about strategy?

Strategy is the how. It’s the vehicle and route you are going to take. It’s the way you are going to drive the car – slow and careful enjoying the ride or are you just going to get there. Strategy is big enough and important enough to warrant its own post. More on strategy later.


You have it now, right?

  • Values then vision,
  • Where you are now,
  • Set SMART goals,
  • Chunk up goals into objectives,
  • Report out in logical manner based on process

Now get out there and set some goals!


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Do you have a social media strategy? – Oh, Oh!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There seems to be ongoing confusion about social media strategy. The best quote I’ve seen regarding this comes from Olivier Blanchard‘s book Social Media ROI. He says:

Whenever I hear people say that their company either has or sells a “social media strategy”, I cringe. There is no such thing as a “social media strategy”. It is kind of like having a “telephone strategy” or an “email strategy”.

He’s right of course. Social media is an ever changing set of communication tools that you can use to support your business goals and strategies. Here’s a quick breakdown of the step needed before you get to social media.

Know your values

People, especially small business miss this critical first step. Know what you value.

Create a complelling vision

Create a clear and compelling vision of where you want to be based on your values.

Identify the current reality

You have to know where you are. Define a clear and objective view of where you are now.

Map the Gap

The gap between the vision and the current reality is where business strategy lays. Map it out in a way you are comfortable with.

Research your Market

Who are your stakeholders, customers or clients. This should be ongoing. Who are they, where do they hang out, how are you going to connect with them? What do they need and how might you provide that?

Define your goals

Sometimes called objectives. Each goal is a step toward your vision. Each goal ought to be SMART.

Set you targets

These are linked to goals but they are more specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic and time-framed (yes, SMART). They are the steps you  take to reach your goals. Some people call these objectives (language is so hard!).

Design your strategy

This is like a map. It should clearly show how you will get where you want to go. It includes an actionable plan you have created to navigate and close the gap between your vision and current reality, by reaching your targets and goals. A strategic plan is based on the vision, current reality and goals. Choose your tactics and tools  based on your goals and targets.

You should have one “map” with several routes as there are multiple territories you need to navigate. You may have a Marketing Strategy, Customer Engagement Strategy, Sales Strategy, etc, all with their own set of  aligned goals, targets and a variable set of tactics and tools.

Now select your tactics

These are the methods or means of carrying out the strategy. Tactics are actions verbs. Post, write, record, Tweet…

Finally, choose your tools

These are the things like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, your blog, website, and advertising, that you can use tactically.


Here’s a example of how this might look for a small business specializing in upscale children’s clothing.

Values – We identified our values as a business and decided that customer service and quality goods were most important.

Vision – We are the most popular children’s store in our area. Customers are loyal and come back often. They tell their friends about us, raving about the friendly service and quality of goods.

Current Reality – We are lagging in sales and finding it hard to compete with the big box stores.

Map the Gap – There is a big gap between our vision and current reality. The concern is that we are giving up the vision in order to close the gap.

Research our Market – We know the demographics of our local community and have a clear picture of where our targeted customers spend time.

Goal #1 – Increase local, targeted shoppers, awareness of our store and products.

Targets – #1 – Increase foot traffic to store by 20% within 3 months. #2 – Increase Likes on our Facebook page by 30% in next 3 months.

Strategy – Use social media and local newspaper ads to increase local shoppers awareness of our store and build our reputation.

Tactics – Launch a scavenger hunt contest that links our newspaper ads and our Facebook page and promote on all channels we are active in.

To complete the scavenger hunt people will have to both Like our Facebook page and come into the store.

When people come into the store ensure they have an exceptional service experience.

Tools – Facebook, newspaper ads, in store promotional displays, QR Codes, Twitter, Pinterest and Foursquare.

The advantage of this process is that it’s measurable and keeps you aligned with the bigger picture – the vision of where you want to be.


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