Do you use the words goal and objective as interchangeable phrases when you talk with your team members or outline your professional goals and plans?
Goals and objectives are often confused with each other, as they both describe desired outcomes and results that you or your company want to achieve.
What sets goals and objectives apart?
Goals and objectives can be differentiated by 4 things:
While the terms are often used interchangeably, they have major differences and significant implications for your company.
It's critical that each person on your team is on the same page when it comes to this terminology.
In this post, we’re going to describe the difference between goals and objectives and provide clear examples to help you overcome vagueness in your company communication.
What are goals? Goals determine the broad, long-term outcomes you want to achieve. They give you the overarching direction for your business plan and define where you want to be in the future.
You might use goals in your yearly and quarterly company strategy, in your positioning, mission statement, company culture guide, financial projections, and other crucial business documents and initiatives.
The right goal will align with your company vision, purpose, and long-term aspirations.
A goal establishes a desired outcome. An individual company goal is a broad statement; it is large in size and intangible. That’s why it’s hard to measure.
As a team or organization, your goals could be to:
While these are worthy goals, they don't include a specific action or timeframe that guides you through each step to reach your destination.
What defines an “inclusive company culture?” What are the particular tasks you need to complete? How would you know you've reached the goal?
A goal describes where your company wants to be in the future, but unlike objectives, it doesn't detail how you get there.
What are objectives?
Objectives are the specific actions and measurable steps your company must take to reach its goals.
They give you a clear understanding of the specific tasks or projects that need to be completed in order to get your organization closer to the target.
Usually thought of as OKRs, these have very specific action steps and metrics attached to them.
Goals and objectives are different concepts, but they work in harmony to help you achieve the desired results and maximize your team’s productivity.
Creating a goal without a clear objective leads to a goal that never gets accomplished.
The direction and overall destination of your company that helps you realize the company vision
To make goals actionable, they need to be broken down into objectives and KPIs (key performance indicators). Here is how you could break down an example goal into a measurable objective:
The exact actions and steps your company must take to reach its goals
Objective has the word “object” in it. Objects are concrete.
Because of this, objectives can be scoped with timeframes, budgets, and tangible results. A lot of organizations use the S.M.A.R.T. criteria and goal setting method to define and measure objectives.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for:
As a leader, be sure your team's day-to-day tasks and projects align with the broader needs of the business.
As Chris Bee, CTO at Lessen, shared in our Lead Time Chat on the behaviors of effective engineering leaders, "There's a tendency sometimes for shiny object syndrome as people start to get into leadership roles." He noted that it's important for folks to keep in mind "where the business is headed and the goals that we're trying to reach."
Connecting goals and objectives in practice can be a challenge, especially for distributed teams, but tools like Range can help.
With Range, teams can bridge the gap between goals and daily work by setting goals and objectives aligned to broader business goals and linking those objectives to specific projects and tasks.