Leadership Lesson: Top reasons why most business goals are not set or met

Published in the Phoenix Business Journal on January 29, 2020

“Why bother to set goals unless you have a plan to achieve them.” – Stephen Covey, American business author.

Harvard University research notes that 83% of Americans do not have goals. Fewer than 5% have written goals. Interestingly, Harvard uncovered also that MBA grads with well-stated, documented goals earn 10 times more than the no-goals group.

Staples surveyed 300 small businesses to find that 80% fail to track their business goals – while 77% fail to reach their vision. 

What goes wrong? Other than not taking the time to establish good goals and complete them, here are the key reasons for goals (and visions) not being met: 

  • The goal does not support the company’s purpose, vision, or mission. It stands by itself without meaning.
  • Goals are not aligned with the organization. The resources needed to implement the objectives are not available. 
  • Priorities of goals are not established. In particular, all goals have the same priority: high.
  • Nobody is in charge of making sure an objective is properly set, and that its completion is on track. There is little to zero responsibility and accountability for the goal.
  • Top leaders are not supportive champions of the goal or its achievement. So, they are not really leaders.
  • Goals lack clarity, are non-specific, cannot easily be articulated nor understood resulting in confusion and apathy.
  • Infrequent to non-existent reviews of goals. Successful goal achievers hold weekly, monthly and quarterly reviews to keep on track with no hidden surprises.
  • Inflexible goals. If it's clear that a goal should not have been established, or cannot be completed, then change or eliminate the goal. 
  • Lack of measurements along the way is a key issue. Not knowing the milestones for the goal nor meeting them is a waste of time.
  • Interestingly, lack of an answer to the question, “How will we know we have completed the goal successfully?” deserves a documented answer.
  • Failure to include the implementers in the formulation of the goal in the first place creates a barrier to having them happily committed to the success of the goal.
  • Undocumented and uncommunicated goals (including progress and completion) dampens widespread organizational buy-in and commitment to success.

Understanding what goes wrong with goal-setting and successful completion helps us understand how to do it right. In other words, goal-setting and achievement should be part of the overall organizational culture – it is a significant step to success.

The bottom line: Establish effective goal-setting and completion as an essential part of organizational culture. Involve the organization in goal-based actions to build teamwork and success.

Click here to read this article on the Phoenix Business Journal site.