Strategic goals are goals created to identify the intended accomplishment of a business strategy. When companies create strategic goals, they directly identify what they see as the outcome of their business efforts. Strategic goals are most commonly created when a company is mounting a new strategy. For example, if a company adopts a new advertising campaign in an attempt to draw buyers to their products, they may also create a strategic goal, or desired endpoint, of their new advertising efforts.
Types of Strategic Goals
Strategic goals may be either “hard” or “soft”—that is precisely measurable or not. Both types of goals should be defined for a variety of stakeholders, including customers, employees, communities and shareholders. The following chart shows some examples of hard and soft goals for each stakeholder:
Characteristics of Strategic Goals
To craft a strategic plan for your organization, you first need to determine the goals you’re trying to reach. Strategic goals are an organization’s measurable objectives that are indicative of its long-term vision. Here are four characteristics of strategic goals to keep in mind when setting them for your organization.
- Purpose-Driven: The starting point for crafting strategic goals is asking yourself what your company’s purpose and values are. What are you striving for, and why is it important to set these objectives? Let the answers to these questions guide the development of your organization’s strategic goals.
“You don’t have to leave your values at the door when you come to work,” says HBS Professor Rebecca Henderson in the online course Sustainable Business Strategy. Henderson, whose work focuses on reimagining capitalism for a just and sustainable world, also explains that leading with purpose can drive business performance. “Adopting a purpose will not hurt your performance if you do it authentically and well,” Henderson says in a lecture streamed via Facebook Live. “If you’re able to link your purpose to the strategic vision of the company in a way that really gets people aligned and facing in the right direction, then you have the possibility of outperforming your competitors.”
- Long-Term and Forward-Focused: While strategic goals are the long-term objectives of your organization, operational goals are the daily milestones that need to be reached to achieve them. When setting strategic goals, think of your company’s values and long-term vision, and ensure you’re not confusing strategic and operational goals. For instance, your organization’s goal could be to create a new marketing strategy; however, this is an operational goal in service of a long-term vision. The strategic goal, in this case, could be breaking into a new market segment, to which the creation of a new marketing strategy would contribute. Keep a forward-focused vision to ensure you’re setting challenging objectives that can have a lasting impact on your organization.
- Actionable: Strong strategic goals are not only long-term and forward-focused—they’re actionable. If there aren’t operational goals that your team can complete to reach the strategic goal, your organization is better off spending time and resources elsewhere. When formulating strategic goals, think about the operational goals that fall under them. Are they actionable steps your team can take to achieve your organization’s objective? If so, the goal could be a worthwhile endeavor for your business.
- Measurable: When crafting strategic goals, it’s important to define how progress and success will be measured. For instance, the goal “become a household name” is valid but vague. Consider the intended timeframe to reach this goal and how you’ll operationally define “a household name.” The method of obtaining data must also be taken into account. An appropriate revision to the original goal could be: “Increase brand recognition by 80 percent among surveyed Americans by 2030.” By setting a more specific goal, you can better equip your organization to reach it and ensure that employees and shareholders have a clear definition of success and how it will be measured.
The Importance of Strategic Goals
Setting strategic goals can have a significant impact on the success and productivity of your team. Strategic goals influence how and where a team’s energy and resources are used. They also provide the team with concrete objectives that will keep them focused and motivated. Here are some examples of the benefits of strategic goals:
- Defining priorities
- Guiding resource allocation
- Directing the creation and maintenance of budgets
- Influencing the formation of teams
- Providing focus and motivation for employees
- Informing the objectives of the marketing, public relations and human resources departments
- Providing comprehensive data used to measure a team’s results