Definition

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Goal

(Contrast with: objective)

that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
                                   - Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

Goals are specific targets that are intended to be reached at a given point in time. Goals must be measurable. That is, couched in terms that allow us to verify that they have been achieved. The SMART model provides a useful framework for setting realistic goals.

SMART Goals

S

Specific

M

Measurable

A

Achievable

R

Realistic

T

Time-related

Why Set Goals?

Goals are part of the envisioned future of an organisation. They propel an organisation forward and give its people purpose. Modern writings in goal setting encourage both short-term and longer-term (10 to 30 year) audacious goals together with vivid descriptions of what it will be like to achieve the goal. Refer to James Collins and Jerry Porras' writings on big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs).

There is a difference between merely having a goal and becoming committed to a huge, daunting challenge -- such as climbing Everest. A true he had is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point to effort, and acts as a catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organisation can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.        - James Collins and Jerry Porras1

Apple Inc. is a case study in effective goal setting.

When we set out to develop the iPad, we not only had very ambitious technical goals, and user interface goals, but we had a very aggressive price goal. Because we want to put this in the hands of lots of people.        - Steve Jobs

A Non-goal

"Produce a market leading product in Internet trading software" is a vague goal.

A Good Goal

"Deliver release 1.0 of the Internet Trader software product by 1 July, 2012" is more precise and can be measured.

Examples of General Business Goals

  • Reduce overall budget costs by 10% by 2012
  • Increase market share by 5% by 2012
  • Increase revenues by 20% by 2013
  • Increase customer satisfaction by 5 pts by 2012.

Examples of Project Goals

Project goals usually focus on the critical success factors of cost, scope, time, quality and safety. For example:

  • Deliver the product scope as described in the System Requirements Specification at or below the budgeted cost by 14 July 2012.
  • Maintain a defect density of one defect per thousand lines of code in system level testing.
  • Deliver a compelling user experience that raises customer approval ratings by 100% over the previous product release.

An Example of Personal Goal Setting

43-year-old Gerry Duffy ranks as one of the most remarkable endurance athletes in the world. At the age of 26 he was a chubby, chain-smoking traveling insurance salesman, 60 pounds overweight, unambitious and comfortable with life. With small, easy steps, he began a long journey that ultimately shaved off 30 percent of his body weight and transformed every aspect of his life. His story is a compelling testament to effective personal goal setting. Refer Jeff Wise's blog "Forging a Soul of Iron" at [Wise 11].

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