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Why Team Objectives Matter More Than Team Goals
Setting goals and objectives within an organization or team is very different from setting personal goals and working toward achieving them.
Both are creative processes that demand discipline, but organizational goal setting requires aligning the work and action of many people and therefore necessitates a distinctive strategy.
Organizational goal setting gives people a clear sense of direction, a connection to the bigger picture, and greater control over outcomes. Ever since management guru Peter Drucker prodded leaders to Manage By Objectives more than 65 years ago, it is hard to find an organization or leader who doesn’t utilize goal setting as the primary way to create effectiveness.
For Drucker, two ideas stood out. First, he believed organizations benefitted most when leaders and team members collaborated on the objectives needed to reach targeted outcomes or goals. Second, he strongly distinguished between goals and objectives, focusing more on the latter as the critical ingredient to team success.
Drucker defined a goal as an outcome a team desired to achieve, whereas an objective was a specific and measurable action that could be reached in a short amount of time. Expressed more practically, objectives are the individual steps or actions we need to take to achieve a goal.
The process of setting goals and then designing objectives to get there paints a vivid picture of success that motivates people and moves them forward.
Contemporary approaches to goal and objective setting like OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and SMART Goals agree that great objectives share four qualities: they are short, measurable, specific, and time bound.
In other words, they consist of a single action or small sets of actions, not a complex soup of steps. They are quantitative by nature and easy to measure. The actions that make up an objective are precise and clear. And they are always connected to a deadline or expiration date.
Great leaders spend more time crafting objectives than they do setting goals. They know it is the objective-setting process that sets teams apart and produces successful outcomes.
Like all creative expressions, leaders become more masterful with lots of practice. The more leaders engage in the objective creation process, the better they get at it. There is no better way to improve team effectiveness than to dig in on the objective-setting process. How about starting today?