Goal setting is an important skill to develop in order to achieve success, both inside and outside of the business world. The first step to effective goal setting is understanding and identifying different types of business goals.
For businesses, setting and achieving goals plays a central role in mapping out the path to success. For leaders and managers, understanding the difference between outcome goals and process goals can be the pivotal factor between flourishing growth and stagnating complacency.
Outcome goals, the commonly known ‘destination points’, provide a broad vision to aspire to. On the other hand, process goals, often referred to as the ‘roadmap’, focus on the journey itself – the day-to-day tasks and behaviors necessary to inch closer to the ultimate target. They help us build the bridge that connects our present reality with our future aspirations.
Striking a balance between these two types of goals can be tricky but is crucial for sustained business growth. Through this article, we aim to explore the individual merits of outcome and process goals, understand their interconnection, and provide guidance on using them effectively in a business context.
Understanding Outcome Goals
The first type of goal you should familiarize yourself with is an outcome goal. Outcome goals focus on achieving a specific and measurable result. Outcome goals are typically centered around long-term achievements. They’re also often intentionally broad or vague so that smaller milestones can be set within them.
Outcome goals can initially be developed through asking yourself what it is that you generally want to accomplish. Because of their simplicity and directness to the point, outcome goals are often much easier to start with, especially if you’re uncertain of specifics. New businesses, or businesses attempting a pivot, may find outcome goals more useful in early planning stages.
Your overall outcome goal will most likely remain the same for a longer duration of time, as opposed to smaller and more specific process goals. However, it’s often the best way to just start heading in the right direction.
Think of the outcome goal as outlining the destination, whereas process goals outline the detailed landmarks you’ll visit along the way. Here are some examples of outcome goals:
- Increase annual profits for this year
- Streamline the online checkout experience
- Identify new leads for sales opportunities
As you can see, these goals are intentionally broad and open-ended, so that you can fill in the gaps later with specific steps and actions.
Identify the Ideal Result
Part of defining your company’s outcome goals involves understanding what exactly you’re looking to accomplish, assuming that everything goes according to plan. Although there may be setbacks and delays, it’s important to envision what success looks like to you and your company in order to find a means of getting there.
Host a meeting among your team members and consult them in regards to what you’re looking to achieve. Discuss potential obstacles, possible solutions, and new ideas that can bring that vision into reality. Through this discussion, you’ll find you and your employees naturally begin to devise what are known as process goals.
Understanding Process Goals
Process goals differ from outcome goals in that they focus on the “smaller picture”, or the details in-between. Having an outcome goal for your business isn’t enough on its own. You need to create a stable foundation for your outcome goals to stand on, and that’s where process goals come in.
In order to form process goals, you need an outcome goal first. Even if you haven’t written it down, you probably have an idea of what you’re trying to achieve. Process goals outline the specific milestones that will take you from where you are now to achieving that outcome goal.
Contrary to outcome goals, process goals should be as specific and realistic as possible. Process goals provide you with a detailed roadmap to achieving the outcome goal, so they need to be thorough and well-developed. It can help to use the popular SMART method when devising these goals.
It may help to think of process goals as stairs on a staircase – each one is necessary in order to reach the top. Here are some examples of common process goals:
- Trim expenses by 15% each month for 6 months
- Post on business social media account twice a day every day
- Spend 2 hours each day focusing on cold calls
Get Down to the Details
Process goals take root in the details of your projects, whether that’s recorded in dollars, numbers, or days. As you and your team discuss process goals, you should always keep the outcome goal on the horizon. Every process goal you come up with should be somewhat relevant to the initial outcome goal, or you risk losing direction and lacking focus.
You can create as many process goals as you feel you need in order to achieve your outcome goal, but keep in mind that you don’t want these goals to become overwhelming. Trim the fat wherever possible by eliminating unnecessary milestones that don’t add real value toward your overarching goal.
The Importance of Using Both
Ideally, you should aim to be using both outcome and process goals in conjunction with one another to get the best of both worlds. Working toward an outcome goal by itself can become exhausting without the support of a more detailed plan. On its own, an outcome goal often feels too far away or too big to achieve.
Likewise, process goals on their own often have little focus and impact. For example, if your outcome goal is to go to college, your process goals should be to study for a certain amount of time each day, and to decide which major you’d like to pursue. Without those milestones, you’d find yourself utterly directionless past receiving a college acceptance letter.
Using both of these goals together allows you to create a solid and reliable business strategy, with which you can make drastic improvements to your business operations. Additionally, it’s easier to motivate your team when everyone is working toward a common goal.
Naturally, goal setting is just the beginning. Implementing progress toward these goals is the next step toward success. Research shows that companies that track their goals are twice as likely to achieve success within a 12 month period. Take advantage of that statistic by making sure you record and document progress.
Tracking your progress does more than just offer a glimpse into your chances of success. When your employees are well-informed about upcoming goals and milestones, they’re more likely to work toward those goals as well. To add some extra incentive, consider offering rewards as milestones are achieved, or encouraging employees to provide feedback.
Goal setting is a lot more complicated than it seems, but the right strategy can simplify and streamline the process. By starting with a clear outcome goal and then further exploring it with process goals, you can create a secure foundation for future success.