Goals and objectives. Two words that sound different but mean the same thing, right? Not quite.
Many people assume that goals and objectives are two terms that can be easily interchanged. As a result, they're often confused with one another, but they do have some key differences.
Goals vs. objectives -- which term is better for what you and your team are trying to accomplish? This guide will go over the difference between goals and objectives and how clarifying the terms can help you overcome hurdles within your company's communications.
Below is everything we will cover. Feel free to skip ahead.
- What is a goal?
- What is an objective?
- How are goals and objectives different?
- Goals vs. objectives - how they work together
- The benefits of setting goals and objectives for your workplace
- How to manage your goals and objectives
- Establish your business goals and objectives
What is a goal?
Goals in businesses are an overarching target that you're hoping to achieve. Setting goals while planning out your business is essential to define where your business is heading, but they can be hard to measure.
Your business goal could be to be the number one marketing agency for video game companies. That is a great goal, but there are no specific time frames or actions associated with it. So how will you know when you achieve it?
When you set a goal, it can help your organization or individual employees stay motivated toward a specific achievement or destination. In addition, having lofty and big goals can work to boost your employees' engagement and foster feelings of excitement.
You can also set goals during your quarterly and yearly company strategy meetings. Some of these goals can include:
- Building trust between various departments in your organization
- Improving company communication practices
- Growing your global customer base
- Creating a better work environment for your employees
A goal tells you where you want to be but doesn't give you the steps on how to get there.
What is an objective?
An objective is a specific step that you and your company will take to work toward your goal. These could also be defined as milestones in your overall timeline. Your goal is what you want to achieve, and your objective is what you will do to get there.
Business goals can be vague and not tangible. However, objectives in business give you the clear actions you need to take to get your desire result.
You can measure an objective as you progress toward your goal. Then, depending upon the success of a specific objective or milestone, you can pivot your upcoming objectives to ensure you'll reach your end goal successfully. Each objective has its deadline and time frame.
While goals are broader, objectives are the opposite. They have to be narrow in scope as they are small pieces of the whole picture. The time frame is typically short to medium term as you work toward your long-term goal.
The goal of your company could be to increase profitability. That's pretty broad. Here are some objectives for that goal:
- Within two years, cut down on your operating costs by 10%
- Decrease the response time for customer sales inquiries to 10 hours by the end of the next quarter
- Earn a minimum of 15% return on investment (ROI) in a fiscal year
By setting quantifiable objectives, you'll be able to move your company toward the goal you set clearly.
Is an objective a strategy?
A strategy defines how each team or employee will accomplish their objectives. The objective is the specific action they need to take.
Strategies can change during the course of a campaign, but objectives need to stay the same. Your strategy may need to change if the way you're trying to accomplish a specific objective isn't working out.
In the development stages of determining your goal and objectives, this is how strategy fits in:
- Set your overarching goal
- Determine the objectives that each team and employee need to do
- Figure out the strategy or way you will accomplish each objective
It's easy to get all these different terms confused, but they're not all the same thing. Instead, they all work together to help you accomplish your corporate strategy.
How are goals and objectives different?
Goals and objectives are different, but they share a common purpose: growing your business and getting you where you want to be. It's not difficult to figure out the differences between the two.
The goals of your organization should have a longer time frame. It shouldn't be something you want to accomplish that week or even the following month. Instead, goals can be set quarterly, annually, or even a few years down the road.
Objectives have a specific deadline or target date. They're typically set during a medium or short time frame. These can be monthly or quarterly.
The scope of goals can be very broad as they're usually general statements. They're not limited solely to a certain project or team but can be applied to an entire company.
Objectives are very specific and narrow in scope. They're applied typically to one process or team, like sales or marketing.
As discussed earlier, goals can be challenging to measure and are intangible. The goal of "providing better customer service" is abstract. The objective of reducing your customer wait time to less than one minute is tangible and works to achieve your primary goal.
Your goals don't need to be specific. They can be as broad as you'd like them to be, so long as you know what you're working toward.
Objectives need to be specific so you and your team know what particular actions you need to take to accomplish your goal. Having vague objectives won't get you anywhere. Measurable steps are essential.
Goals vs. objectives - how they work together
Your goals should be relatable and relevant to your employees and customers. They should also align with your company's overall mission statement. Setting a goal without giving it objectives that you can measure will likely result in that goal never being accomplished.
On the flip side, if you create an objective without a broad target or goal in mind, the objective has no meaning. Goals need to be broken down into objectives so they seem less overwhelming and show how you're successful.
Once you've set your specific business goals and mapped out what objectives you need to accomplish, you must continually measure your progress to stay on track. You can use different software to keep all your objectives organized.
Holding yourself and your team members accountable for each objective will ensure you stay on track to achieving your goals. Of course, people don't want to let others down while they're all working toward a common goal. But, on the other hand, you also don't want to miss a vital deadline.
Apply the SMART Goals framework
When developing goals for your business, you may consider using SMART goals as a framework. These can help create a strong foundation for achieving success in all of your career goals. In addition, the SMART goals framework can be applied to any size of an organization, even if you're self-employed.
SMART goals break down as:
- Specific: Be as detailed and clear as you can when determining what it is that you want to achieve
- Measurable: Determine your milestones so you can measure your progress toward your goal and pivot your tactics if needed
- Achievable: Evaluate if your goal is something you can achieve now or if you need to do some preliminary actions to make your company better prepared
- Relevant: Your goals should align with your values and long term goals
- Time-Based: Determine your end date to provide motivation and more structure for your milestones
Using SMART goals helps you ensure that the goal your setting for yourself or your company is the course of action you should be on. Using this framework, you can clearly understand what you and your team are aspiring toward.
You can apply this for laying out objectives as well. The framework breaks down the goal and assigns different tasks to various team members.
Examples of SMART Goals
Let's go over some good and bad examples of SMART goals. Then, we'll go through each step of the SMART framework.
Good SMART Goal: Increase sales by 20% by the end of next year
Bad SMART Goal: Increase sales by the end of next year
The good example works best because it applies a concrete percentage to how much you want your sales to increase. While goals are more broad definition, they shouldn't be so vague that you don't know what the result is supposed to look like.
Now, let's break down the SMART template. We'll show good and bad examples from each section.
- Good: Hire a training manager and two new sales reps
- Bad: Hire more employees
- Good: Increase sales by 5% by the end of next quarter
- Bad: Increase sales each quarter
- Good: Every sales representative needs to get four more sales than the prior month
- Bad: Every sales representative needs to sell more
- Good: Our products and team are the best in the industry and serve our customers
- Bad: We want to increase our revenue and will cut any corners that we need to to achieve that
- Good: We'll measure our sales growth at the end of each quarter, aiming for a total 20% increase by the end of next year
- Bad: We should have more revenue than last year
Using the SMART goal framework breaks down a broad goal in a series of objectives, making it more attainable. Like we said earlier, goals can be broad but not so much that what you're trying to achieve isn't clear.
Using the SMART Goals framework for objectives
Apply the same framework when setting objectives for your goals. Each objective should be SMART. You should be able to measure and track your objectives easily.
Your objectives need to be grounded in reality. For example, you could want to increase your business's sales by 200%, but if you don't have enough team members, that's not going to happen. Setting a more attainable goal or focusing on increasing your team will help you achieve that.
Your goals also need to be relevant. Each objective needs to be connected to something that can help improve customer satisfaction, grow your business, etc.
Your objectives also need to have clear deadlines. If you don't have a time frame in mind, you'll lose sight of your goal.
How to use objectives and goals together
As we talked about before, you need a strategy to determine how you will complete each objective. Your strategy is a series of tasks or steps that need to be completed so you can check your objective off the list.
If your objective is to hire three more employees, you could create a hiring plan. Why is a hiring plan important? They help you consider what your goals are and how each new team member can help you accomplish them.
Here are some ways you would build an effective hiring plan:
- Get all relevant team members together to help create the plan
- Prepare all financial information, so you know what your budget is for future hires
- Reiterate your business goals and determine what team members are needed to accomplish it
- Figure out how many new hires you need
- Evaluate what skill sets would be good to bring on board
Other aspects of this plan could be figuring out interview questions, who will be conducting the interviews, and where you'll be seeking talent.
As you layout your hiring strategy, you'll work toward finishing off your objective of hiring a new training manager and two new sales reps. This objective helps you accomplish your overall goal of increasing your revenue by 20%.
The benefits of setting goals and objectives for your workplace
A successful company will set goals throughout the course of its existence, not just in the early days when they're creating a business plan. Creating and setting a goal gives you and your team a direction to work toward. You're not aimlessly doing various tasks without knowing how they'll benefit your business.
Set better priorities
Whether the goal is for an entire organization or a specific career goal for yourself, they help you determine your priorities. You look at different accomplishments in your career's future. You can determine what achievements are important to you.
Once you figure out what is most important to you, you'll be able to set your personal priorities. All of your efforts need to be focused on achieving your primary goal. You'll avoid wasting time on things that aren't important.
Improve your decision making
There's no confusion in what direction you need to take when you have goals set. If you're faced with two different courses of action, go with the one that helps you achieve your goal. Having defined goals will help you make better decisions.
Having meaningful goals for yourself and your team will motivate you to keep going, even when times get tough. Of course, you're not hoping that someday you will magically achieve your goal. Instead, you're taking actionable steps to accomplish it.
Reach your full potential
Set a business goal and working toward it can help you realize your full capabilities and potential. You may start believing in yourself more than you did before. If you're working in a team, it will help create a more positive work environment.
Measure your progress
Objectives help you figure out where you are on the journey to achieving your goal. If a goal isn't divided up into achievable steps, it may seem like it can never come to fruition. As you and your team accomplish each objective, you'll get more motivation to keep working toward your goal.
Confirm your chosen strategy
As you start accomplishing your objectives and crossing them off your list, you can confirm that you correctly formulated your strategy. Conversely, if you're unable to achieve an objective, you'll be able to reflect on your strategy and pivot as needed.
How to manage your goals and objectives
Whether your company is remote or working together in one central office, it's vital to have a system in place to track your projects, programs, and initiatives. It holds people accountable while giving them a straightforward way to manage their deadlines. In addition, there are a variety of tools available to help you keep everything organized.
Our project timeline software helps you and your organization create realistic timelines. You're also able to establish task dependencies from the start of every project. As a result, each team member knows what's expected of them, and they're all working toward a clear end goal.
By using this tool, employees will stay motivated and accountable. In addition, everyone will know what they're working on and what everyone else is, too—track critical milestones within our timeline.
If things change, no problem. Easily reprioritize tasks when deadlines vary. Everyone will be able to see when something changes, helping maintain transparency.
If one task is dependent upon another being completed first, you're able to connect them. For example, a specific employee may be waiting for someone else to finish a task before they can get started on theirs. They'll know when to expect it and who to follow up with if it runs late.
Need help setting your goals and figuring out the bigger picture? Our project charter template helps you clearly set your goals. You'll also be able to understand the nature of the goals you set.
Your team needs to understand what they're doing and why they're doing it. Not fully comprehending long terms goals often results in teams and individuals falling short. This template is specifically designed to eliminate any possible confusion and map out your project's trajectory.
You can set your objectives within the project charter template. You can assign the following items to each objective:
- Success measures
- Key performance indicators
You'll give your team a map that they can follow to not feel overwhelmed or lose direction.
Within the template, you can set a recurring schedule. Let your team know how often you'll have meetings for project milestones and progress reports. Setting the proper cadence for your project will help them work toward the end goal at the perfect pace.
Status report software
Part of being successful with your business goals and objectives is measuring how you and your team are performing along the way. Our status report software gives you templates to give you keen insights into how your project is moving along.
It takes a lot of time to track and report on company-wide projects manually. That time could be better spent working toward your goal and ticking off objectives. Our software handles all the busy work for you.
It provides you with notifications, updates, and reports regularly. For example, you can view how your project has historically progressed, where it currently is, and how the future looks. In addition, you'll be able to see a forecast on when the work is expected to be completed.
Keep yourself and your team accountable. View tasks that are past due and which ones have due dates coming up.
The software will help you communicate better within your team, increase productivity, and prioritize tasks. Those are all essential components needed when accomplishing business goals.
Manage your to-do list
While it's important to see where all your team members are at with their own individual tasks, you also need to manage your own. Our to-do list software helps you effectively perform your own task management. View everything important to you within all your projects in one location.
Stay more organized with your tasks. Viewing everything in one central location makes it, so you don't have to switch between tabs to see what needs to be accomplished. Increase your own mental focus.
Establish your business goals and objectives
Goals vs. objectives. They're both winners in this battle as they need one another to survive.
Goals need objectives to be successful. Objectives need a goal, so you know what you're working toward. You can't have one without the other if you want to grow your business.
Setting goals and objectives for your business is important. However, having the right tools at your disposal makes the process a snap. That's where we come in.
TrueNxus helps you manage your projects and long-term goals. We're here to help you every step of the way. Try it for free today and see how it can transform your team's efficiency and boost communication.