California and Reno: Goals and Objectives

I’m working with a relatively new and inexperienced marketing team as an interim leader. I love these roles because they enable me to be in “teacher” mode. While the team probably thinks about me as “Ok Xer”, there is a real hunger to build new skills. This team is smart, good and active listeners, works well with each other and has a strong desire to drive results. They just need a tiny bit of direction and some support. Culturally, we’ve worked to set the conditions where they can ask questions they’d be afraid to ask their old boss, the CEO.

In a planning meeting, we were talking about the marketing funnel and some choices they were wrestling with. After a lot of discussions, it turned out they didn’t have any real objectives, but they did have a goal. The whole company was aligned around the specific goal, which was good news. The bad news was, the team hadn’t translated the goal into objectives and strategies. And, the other bad news was they were using the phrases goal, objectives and strategies interchangeably.

We will be dedicating a little bit of time in an upcoming meeting to building their management system. We’re going start with the basics: Terminology. We want to make sure we’re all – literally – speaking the same language. We’re going to focus on the difference between goals and objectives.

  • How we’ll talk about goals: A goal is a broad statement of what you want to achieve. It’s the destination you want to reach, but it doesn’t provide specific directions for how to get there. For example, “Increase revenue by 20% this year” is a goal.
  • How we’ll talk about objectives: An objective is a specific, measurable, and time-bound target that helps you achieve your goals. Objectives are the steps you take to reach your goal. For example, “Launch a new marketing campaign in Q2 that generates 500 new leads” is an objective that can help you achieve your revenue growth goal.

We’ll use my favorite analogy: the Van Life trip to California. In this analogy, “Spending the Winter in Malibu” is our goal. Our short term objective might be “Get from Minneapolis to Denver by the end of the week”. A midterm objective might be: Get to Reno before the snowmelts at the end of May.”

Next up: Strategies vs operating plans

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