Change is the only constant and yet too often goals feel like they are written in stone.
Setting goals is a powerful tool to help individuals and organizations achieve success. If you have ever felt lost or unsure of where to focus your efforts, setting goals is the answer. But goals will feel like a weight if they are not flexible enough to accommodate the inevitable change around us.
In this post, we’ll explore the art of goal-setting and provide strategies for setting, resetting, and adjusting your goals to achieve success.
Why set goals in the first place
Goals give us a sense of direction and purpose. They help us focus and prioritize our efforts, and provide a way to measure progress and achieve success. Without goals, we can feel aimless or unfocused, and may struggle to achieve our desired outcomes.
While there are countless goal setting frameworks out there, all goal-setting shares one common goal: to help individuals and organizations achieve success — and they’re pretty effective at that. Studies have shown that individuals who set specific goals are up to 10 times more likely to achieve them than those who don’t set any goals at all.
Why would you need to reset your goals
Goals may need to be reset due to changes in priorities or new information. Resetting goals can be a positive step towards achieving success, as it allows us to adapt to changing circumstances and stay focused on our desired outcomes. Flexibility and adaptability are key traits for successful goal-setting.
For example you have a goal to increase revenue by 200% this year. When talk of a recession heats up, some key deals fall through, additional customers churn, and marketing expenses get cut, it might become clear that the original goal is no longer achievable. In this case, the goal would need to be reset.
Things might not need to be that dramatic: maybe you were just a little too optimistic with initial estimates for a feature launch. You don’t need to abandon the goal. You simply need to adjust the timeline or change the scope to meet the current timeframe.
The difference between “moonshot” goals and demotivating goals
Moonshot goals are ambitious, inspirational goals that inspire individuals and teams to achieve great things.
There are many examples of moonshot goals, but the namesake example is the Apollo Moon landing goal, which was to “land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth” by the end of the 1960s. At that point the technology didn’t exist to achieve the goal, but with an entire country focused on achieving it, they were able to make the impossible happen.
But, sometimes the impossible isn’t possible and what was initially inspiring can become frustrating, demotivating, and in some cases cause employees to leave the company.
You want to try and stick to the goals you set, even if they are hard. It can be hard to know when to keep going and when to give up. But if a goal has felt unattainable by everyone in the room for a long time, it is time to consider resetting it.
What should we do if a goal becomes impossible
Once you’ve determined that a goal is impossible to achieve, it’s important to take a step back and assess the situation.
First, it’s important to identify the reasons why the goal became impossible.
- What unexpected obstacles or setbacks did you run into?
- What has changed in your environment?
- Have you considered alternative approaches to achieving the goal?
- Are there any particular skills or resources that you lack?
- Is this goal still important or have priorities shifted since you first set it?
I’m a big believer of doing this with your team so that you can learn from the experience and prevent similar issues in the future.
Once you have the reasons why the goal became impossible, you can start to develop a plan for resetting the goal.
How do you reset your goals
When it’s finally time to fully reset a goal or target, start by documenting a worst-case, best-case, and most likely scenario. Ensure you’ve evaluated each against the reasons that caused the goal to become impossible in the first place.
Review this documentation with your stakeholders and the team. Did the goal become impossible or was it impossible from the start? Are there changes we need to make to how we determine goals? Are there changes that we need to make to the team to achieve our goals? How should we view this change in the context of performance reviews or variable rewards? You’ll want to get ahead of these conversations so that they don’t come as a surprise.
Once documented, share the final plan back to your team and ensure they understand the new goals. Make sure there is buy in, new found clarity, and excitement towards the new direction.
Most people know how to set or reset goals, but not how to adjust them
Treating goals and objectives as unchangeable can be a recipe for disaster.
What might feel like cheating to some, is actually a best practice. In the OKR framework, it’s actually encouraged to make small changes to objectives and key results (OKRs) on a regular basis.
John Doerr, author of the book “Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs” describes as much in his book. His team expands further on their website:
“A sudden change in priorities absolutely warrants a second look at your OKRs. After all, OKRs are your priorities, so the two should naturally grow and shift together. Remember, OKRs are amendable and revisable; they should represent the growth and change you want to see in your company at that moment. If something out of your control changes or you become more aware of what the aggressively realistic goal should be, feel free to get those OKRs out of there and write some new ones!”
Goals and OKRs do not exist in a vacuum. They should be used to communicate and focus on your priorities so need to be flexible enough to reflect changes in the environment. Making them static will not accurately reflect your complex reality.
Why would you need to adjust goals mid-cycle
While resetting goals involves starting from scratch, adjusting goals mid-cycle is about making small tweaks to keep things on track.
For example if your team is behind schedule, you may need to readjust the scope of the project early to make up for lost time while still delivering on the core experience for customers. Or if your marketing campaign isn’t driving the results you expected, you may need to change or expand your target audience or swap out tactics and budget.
No matter the case, adjusting goals becomes easier the more you talk about goals with your team. If you make a habit of it, you’ll be able to quickly adapt when the need arises.
We strongly recommend discussing goals with your direct manager and/or reports every week, in fact, if you do you’ll be more likely to hit your goals by 95%.
How to adjust goals mid-cycle
As already mentioned, you’ll want to ensure you’re discussing your goals every week. This might seem like a lot, but if these goals are really your priorities, then those conversations should take priority.
The frequency of the conversation will ensure that everyone is on the same page and can provide feedback early if anything needs to be adjusted.
Before you change anything you’ll want to take a step back and make sure that the goal actually needs to be adjusted. Too many changes to goals can create a sense of confusion, apathy, and goal fatigue that will make it harder to stay focused.
However, once you’ve identified that there is a goal that needs adjustments your first step is to flag that to stakeholders.
Often this can be as simple as saying, “Hey, unless we get back on track we might have to revise this goal because X, Y, Z has happened. But let’s make sure that’s not an overreaction first.”
If you’re able to find a way to get back on track because of the feedback you received then great! If you’ve explored all ways to keep that goal constant and it still needs to be readjusted then you’ll want to have a conversation about what the new goal should be.
If the adjustment is small you can likely just make the change and update everyone on the new goal — often we find this easiest to do in a meeting when doing a goal update.
If the adjustment is large you’ll want to take some time to reset the goal with your team and execs, documenting what happened, what the new goal is, and why the change was necessary.
Adjusting goals is not a failure; in fact, it can be a sign of growth and adaptability. As circumstances evolve and new insights emerge, it is natural for goals to shift or be refined. By communicating these changes, individuals and teams can foster an environment of transparency and collaboration.
Communication to your team and execs is key
If it wasn’t otherwise obvious, as much as this post has been about goals it’s actually been about communication.
Clear and frequent communication with all stakeholders about your goals is the best way to make sure that everyone is on the same page, can provide feedback early, and will understand when and why changes are made.
A company culture that embraces adjusting goals is promoting a growth mindset. It encourages employees to constantly learn, innovate, and adapt. Employees are more likely to take risks, and experiment, leading to continuous improvement and breakthrough innovations.
We at Hypercontext have made this process easy by building a world class meeting and goal tracking app.