When Setting Goals in Strategic Planning Remember This Important Distinction

I’m pleased that I received so many comments last week in response to my new 4R Strategy for Results for businesses to apply in their strategic planning for 2013. The comments I received came both directly on the blog article itself and to me individually via e-mail.

Between those comments and a couple of client discussions I’ve had recently I want to make sure everyone is aware of an important distinction in goal setting.

There are two types of goals that often get confused in the strategic planning process:

  • Means Goals
  • Ends Goals

Means Goals:
Means goals are the interim results we need to achieve on the way towards our ultimate desired outcomes.

Ends Goals:
Ends goals are the ultimate end result we desire to achieve

For example, in the work I do with my clients to help them achieve a high-performing, positive, productive and profitable work environment, which is often is defined with specific revenue and profit goals, this is their ultimate ends goal.

To make that ends goal achievable we have to achieve other things such as improving communication in the workplace, breakdown silos across the departments/divisions at various levels of the organization, improve teamwork, internal customer service, etc. These are the means goals.

Its important to understand this difference. If business leaders get stifled on means goals the results will also be less than what is ultimately possible because the means goals will be seen as the ends goals.

For both means goals and ends goals it is also important to define them in measurable terms. How will you know when you have achieved the goals. What evidence will you use to determine if you are effectively moving towards your desired objectives.

Hope these last two articles help as you plan for 2013, which is just around the corner.

’til next time, make it a great week!

2 thoughts on “When Setting Goals in Strategic Planning Remember This Important Distinction

  1. Terry Schmidt says:

    Great distinction! You can also think of means goals as steps on the ladder that get you to the end goals.

    My own Logical Framework Approach to strategic project management makes similar distinctions, and organizes goals into causal chains of cause and effect. This recognizes that there can be a series of connected means goals to get you to the end.

    Another important distinction is to identify the key ASSUMPTIONS needed to connect the goals. Assumptions identify risk factors, additional needed tasks, and dependencies. More about this in my best-selling book STRATEGIC PROJECT MANAGEMENT MADE SIMPLE (Wiley, 2009).

  2. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for stopping by and being inspired to add value to the discussion. Please feel free to come back again.

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