My son was a tad frustrated with a client last week and sent me an email to ease his frustration by writing it down. When we are frustrated, angry a little we often think clearly and succinctly. Here is what he wrote. It works for me.

Manage expectations by describing the desired end point.

Without a defined goal to be achieved at the end of the meeting, there is a significant chance that nothing will be achieved-there will be a lot of talking, but very little of consequence will happen and the meeting will end with people still grumbling about it being a waste of time. It is the same consequence at the end of a month, the end of a quarter, the end of a year, the end of three years. Without a clear, desired endpoint, everyone in the organisation will chase their own goal using their best efforts.

Numerical organisational goals are important

To measure a goal it needs to be quantitative, not qualitative-“number one supplier to call centres in Australia” is not a measurable goal, whilst “number one supplier to call centres in Australia measured by number of seats” is.

There’s more than one way to phrase a goal

If it’s not appropriate to say that the organisation’s goal is to achieve $40m in profit by the end of June 2010 (for whatever reason), there’s nothing to prevent the goal from being phrased as “to increase profit by 10% by June 2010”. Nothing is revealed that shouldn’t be but there’s a defined, measurable goal there for everyone to see.

There’s a difference between a goal and a business objective.

Semantics aside, there’s an important difference between a goal and a business objective. A goal is a flag that can be planted atop a hill-a target for everyone to aspire to. Taking the example above, of increasing profit by 10% by June 2010, it’s very easy to develop a quick and memorable slogan-“Ten by Ten”, for example-that can be used to remind everyone about the organisation’s goals and reinforce the fact that every single person in the organisation is expected to help us get there. Business objectives, which may be departmental objectives are the stops along the way-the “how” that goes underneath the “what”, “where” and “when”.

Stated goals need to be congruent with the desires of the executive

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, the executive of an organisation will have desires for the company that they don’t want to talk about openly. If the true goals of the executive cannot be expressed effectively as a goal that can be shared, the replacement goal that is deemed fit for public consumption will only serve to create confusion and reduce buy-in. If an organisation’s executive wants to increase the organisation’s profit but instead tell people their main desire is to provide excellent customer service, two things will happen. One, some staff will actually try to achieve the goal of excellent customer service, but be berated for doing so when their efforts negatively affect profits. This will lead to confusion and resentment. Two, staff who sense that profitability is the real goal will work towards that-and probably be rewarded for it despite it not being in line with the stated organisational goal. This will reduce confidence in the goal and further erode the goodwill of staff.

The goal needs to be communicated to and agreed by everyone

There’s no point in setting a goal that nobody believes in, or failing to provide the support required by departments or individuals in achieving the goal. Saying “all right, our goal is x, off you go and achieve it” will almost inevitably result in failure. Moral, financial and training support will all be required by departments and by individuals as they strive to achieve their personal and business objectives.

Business objectives flow from the organisational goal

There’s no point in setting an organisational goal only to set a contrary or conflicting business objective. “We will be the most profitable contact centre software company in Australia” doesn’t mesh well with “We will be the most cost-effective hosted solution in Australia”, for example.