So one of the problems I’ve seen and I’ve experienced myself when setting goals is that they can seem really motivating at first, but then they start seeming kind of arbitrary. Whether it’s you know making money or improving your health.
Say for example your goal is like I want to make ten thousand dollars a month from a job or from my business. That may seem really good at first, but it doesn’t really capture what you really want from that goal.
What you really want is something more emotional, something that is actually inspiring.
Say for example you’re like I want $10,000 a month so that I don’t have to worry about money, so I can pay all my bills, so I can give to friends and family, so that I can travel and not have to worry about anything financially related.
BUT if you set that as your goal then you’re not going to have any sort of specific target. You’re not likely going to make a massive improvement since you can’t actually wrap your head around the thing that you’re actually trying to accomplish. It’s just kind of this fuzzy concept.
So there’s a tool i learned about that was pioneered before google existed but it’s one of the big things that google does to set goals internally. It’s called objectives and key results and I’ve kind of been using it for years. For different marketing promotions, for personal goals, and to me it worked fantastically.
It allows you to capture the kind of fuzzy emotional thing you’re trying to accomplish and really puts your feet to the fire with some specific measurable targets to hit to achieve that. It also gets you to focus on not just the outcome of what you want but the process, so the things that are actually going to make it happen.
Say for example you’re a professional basketball player and you’re like i want to win a championship. You can just think about that all day long but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
Instead if you’re like okay, if that’s what we want to do, what do we need to do on a daily basis to actually make that happen? You can set some targets around there. It also allows you to really focus on the process and not just the outcome.
So the way this typically works is you have an objective which is the first part of OKR, objective and key results. So you have your objective, and this is the fuzzy sort of emotional thing you want to accomplish. This could be like I want to make enough money so that I’m financially free and don’t worry about it at all.
So this emotional thing is what you really want, which is why it’s good to capture this as the objective. For us maybe it’s a marketing promotion where we’re like okay we want to sell as much of this new product as possible and have extremely happy customers.
That could be our perfect objective and cool that part’s done.
Then the next part is where you actually put your feet to the fire to make sure you accomplish something meaningful. Now you say, this is what I want, but how do I know if I’ve actually gotten it?
This is where you write down, typically three to five key results, anything beyond that I think is a little bit too much.
Key result #1 for example could be like, let’s say it’s a marketing promotion, we want to sell as much of this new good product and help as many people as possible.
Key result #2 could be like where you can kind of use the smart goal format and say we’ll produce at least a hundred thousand dollars in sales by this specific date.
Then you say okay how do we accomplish what we need? Maybe we need something like 10,000 people to sign up for whatever promotion.
Depending on the business promotion this could be email leads for example, so this is one of the things that’s going to help us get there. We don’t want to just focus on this, because there’s a lot of stuff that has to happen before we can even produce any money and we want to really stack the odds in our favor. So say at least 10,000 leads.
Now one of the critical things you want to do here, that I think makes this even more effective is to have what I call a counter key result.
So you know a lot of times if you’re setting a goal you don’t want it to be at any cost you want to achieve it. Typically there’s some things that you’re not willing to accept. You’re not gonna you know screw people over in business. You’re not gonna treat people badly, all those kinds of different things.
But there’s some that are a little more subtle and a little less obvious. So say for example, it’s this marketing promotion, and we’re like okay cool we want to produce as many sales as possible. We want it to be at least a hundred thousand dollars in sales by whatever date and at least 10,000 leads by whatever date.
But you know how do we make sure that we don’t have any adverse consequences? Because maybe it’s a product we want to sell for a long time and we don’t want to cheapen it over time. So say for example like we could produce all these sales if we just ran a crazy deal just to produce a lot of sales now, but it would kill results later. So maybe this counter key result can balance all this stuff. Focused on leads and sales, maybe the counter key result is an average price of at least say fifty dollars?
Maybe in the future you wanna sell it for seventy dollars, whatever the product is, so you may have a counter key result that says at least 50 dollars. That just makes sure that we’re not cheapening it and just going after short-term money, kind of cheating ourselves.
You could even have another one that could be like you know a customer satisfaction score. You want to make sure that you didn’t just over promise a bunch of stuff and people are actually happy with the product. So you have a customer satisfaction score of say 9 out of 10 or something like that.
Focusing on The Process
So this format in general, you can apply this to any area of your life. I’ve done it for business stuff, I’ve done it for personal financial stuff, and I’ve done it for health goals and a lot of other kinds of things. So this can really help you capture the fuzzy emotional thing that you want to accomplish, and at the same time make sure that you actually have measurable targets to get there so you’re not just focusing on the outcome.
You’re also focusing on the process to get there which is really what’s going to lead to the outcome, not just having this goal and wishing that it happens all day long.
You know Google uses this i think across their entire organization with something like 50,000 employees right now. So they’re a huge proponent of this and you can read a lot more about it if you just literally just search “objectives and key results” but this is the general idea.
I’ve kind of modified it a little bit over time, but this I think works incredibly well rather than just picking a goal and then wondering later like why does this thing even matter? um and
One of the people that I think was a master at setting and achieving goals was the basketball coach John Wooden. He won something like 10 national titles in college and had like an 88-game winning streak. Incredibly successful and very principles-driven person.
He did something very interesting, slightly different, which I like to give you as a kind of counter example. He would actually set goals for his season and then write them down for himself, then put them in an envelope, seal the envelope, and then not look at it until the end of the year.
The reason he did that is because he wanted to focus so much on the process. He would literally have printed out note cards for every single practice, and minute by minute breakdowns of what was happening, and he had his players moving the entire time because it was college basketball. He couldn’t have them practicing you know 10 hours a day, like maybe if they were in the professionals, and so he only had a limited amount of time.
He had to make the most out of it, so he was a master at focusing on the process. So that’s why I like to capture some of these process oriented pieces because it’s not just about the outcome it’s really about what you do on a day-to-day basis basis to actually make that happen.
He had a quote that I’ll kind of leave you with here, he said, “make each day your masterpiece.”
Even when he was retired he was running around doing speaking things. He was doing charity work really until the day that he died he was really trying to make as big of an impact as possible on the people that he was able to reach. You can use this process to improve almost any area of your life, or any part of your business, so hopefully this helps and let me know how it goes for you!
Matt Clark is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Amazing.com, a serial entrepreneur, and investor. He’s been featured on Forbes, CNBC, and Entrepreneur.com.