The difference between goals and objectives: Create an actionable business planning process
Do you know the difference between goals and objectives and how are they related?
August 29, 2018

Setting goals is critical for every organisation because goals determine the broad vision and direction for any business. The best goals will align with the company mission, vision and culture and describe the business' longer term aspirations before laying out specific actions.  

Do you know the difference between goals and objectives and how are they related? Without objectives, goals have little support and can be difficult to reach. While the terms 'goals' and 'objectives' are often used interchangeably, they have major differences and important implications for organisations.

What Are Goals?

Goals can be somewhat abstract, but they set a wide, overarching target for the company to set their eyes on as a whole. Goals define the general intentions and ambition of the business but can be difficult to measure.

For example, a person could have a goal to become a successful published author. While this is a good goal, there are no specific actions or time frames associated with the goal. What defines a 'successful author’? How would they know when they've reached their goal?

Goal setting helps individuals and organisations motivate themselves towards a destination or achievement. In a positive work environment, developing lofty goals can boost employee engagement and create excitement that spurs action. Keep reading to learn how goals and objectives work together and how you can generate business results with the goal-tracking tools.

What Are Objectives and How Are They Different?

Once a goal is set, setting business objectives is the next step towards fostering a clear understanding of how to reach the desired outcome. The main difference between objectives and goals is that objectives are the precise, measurable steps individuals and groups take to move closer to the goal. They are reasonable expectations that typically have a schedule or timeline for completion.

For example, a company may have a goal of becoming the most profitable advertising agency in the country. Objectives related to this goal might include increasing their new business sales by five percent each quarter, improving client retention rates by 10 percent each month or adding two new offerings to their product line by the end of the fiscal year.

Examples of Goals and Objectives  

While goals and objectives work in harmony to maximise your business strategy and produce results, they have clear differences that must be recognised to use them effectively.

Goals are:

- Broad in nature
- Valuable for setting a general direction or vision
- Difficult to measure
- Abstract ideas
- Longer term
- The end result

Objectives are:

- Narrow in scope
- Specific steps
- Associated with a schedule and time frame
- The means to the end result
- Easy to measure
- Shorter term

While goals create a vision with a wide range, objectives focus on the individual, achievable outcomes. Objectives are the concrete deliverables that make the goal come to life. Progress towards them helps measure advancement to reaching the larger end goal.

How Goals and Objectives Work Together

Setting goals without assigning measurable objectives will likely never get accomplished. Creating objectives without a broad goal or target lacks meaning. Goals can seem impossible or overwhelming without breaking them down into measurable tasks with objectives.

Many companies use the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting method to lay out specific objectives towards reaching each goal. Whether you are self-employed, have a small business or are part of large organisation, your goals need to be supported with precise objectives.

Anytime an individual or employee undertakes a long-term goal, it can feel intimidating to put a plan together to make it happen. The S.M.A.R.T method helps make goals achievable by breaking the goal down and assigning responsibility to team members — they describe who will do what, by when.

S.M.A.R.T goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. For example, the same scenario of the person with a goal of becoming a successful published author could use S.M.A.R.T. goal planning to outline key objectives towards the goal like this:

Specific: I will create and brand a nonfiction book series about healthy diets and publish at least one book per year.  

Measurable: I will write 10–15 pages of copy per day and will work with my publishing agent five hours per week.

Attainable: I will hire an editor to review my writing before it is published.

Relevant: Publishing a book series will help establish me as an influencer in my industry and create awareness around nutrition and wellness.

Timely: I will publish one book per year for five years by having each draft ready in nine months.

Tracking Progress Towards Goals

Once you've established your business goals and mapped out specific objectives, you have to measure your progress towards them to stay on track towards your targets. Teams often use a variety of goal-tracking methods, tools and software to help measure progress towards specific outcomes and increase accountability of tasks.

Goal setting is only meaningful when you have a system in place to hold yourself and employees accountable for fulfilling objectives. When people make commitments to complete tasks in a transparent work environment, they experience the effect of social discipline and feel obligated to follow through to protect their integrity. No one wants to be the person that lets the team down or misses an important deadline!

Many organisations use performance management programs to make creating and measuring goal advancement easier. Samewave is a social performance management software program designed to make it easy for businesses to leverage social technology and foster accountability and responsibility towards goals. Everyone can view progress towards one another's goals and targets, so there's no question about who is responsible for completing certain tasks within specific time frames.

Our software lets teams create, track, measure and communicate about their commitments. Organisations that use Samewave find employees become more efficient and increase productivity by making transparent commitments towards goals and objectives in a public space. When short-term objectives are obvious, managers can quickly address under-performance while making sure to celebrate and reward high achievers.  

Create targets for quantifiable objectives, develop intuitive scoreboards for your teams and get automatic, crisp reports with actionable insights to review goal progression instantly. Samewave is free, so sign up today and make working towards goals simple with software that is easy to implement for the entire team.

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