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How to Set Stretch Business Goals


Every entrepreneur and business leader understands the importance of setting good business goals. Goals keep individuals and teams focused on specific targets. It also helps business leaders in their decision-making process. However, not all goals are the same. Some goals require more focus, innovation, effort, and commitment than others. A type of goal that falls into this category is called a stretch goal.

A stretch goal is a target set intentionally beyond an organization’s current reach, capability, or capacity. These goals require businesses to push beyond their comfort zones and conventional boundaries to achieve them. Unlike regular goals, which are often based on past performance and incremental improvements, stretch goals are designed to challenge teams and individuals to innovate and rethink their approach to their work.

Stretch goals are not the same thing as impossible goals. On the contrary, stretch goals are still considered realistic business goals. However, these goals are more ambitious than the average business goal.

Whether you’re a startup looking to disrupt the market or an established company seeking to redefine industry standards, learning how to set and manage stretch goals will equip you with the strategic toolset to elevate your business’s vision and performance.


Understand the Concept of Stretch Goals

The term ‘stretch goals’ might sound self-explanatory, but diving deeper reveals layers of intricacy. These aren’t just targets set a notch higher than usual. In reality, they represent a transformative vision. These targets are supposed to push the boundaries of what’s deemed achievable. This audacious nature makes them uniquely powerful. However, the path to setting and achieving stretch goals can be difficult.

It’s essential to understand that setting overly ambitious goals without a foundation of feasibility can be a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, too modest a goal doesn’t bring out the full potential of an organization. The secret sauce lies in finding that sweet spot. That means finding goals that require more innovation, creativity, and extra effort to reach. At the same time, the goals are not insurmountable.

Think of it like an athlete training for an ultra-marathon after mastering a half-marathon. Challenging? Yes. Impossible? Absolutely not. This delicate balance between audacity and attainability is what defines the true essence of stretch goals. They compel business owners and teams to question their limits and commit to going beyond them.


The Stretch Goal Paradox

The allure of stretch goals is undeniable. These ambitious targets, if reached, can result in unparalleled business growth. Also, they can lead to breakthrough performances by the leaders and each team member. However, therein lies the “stretch goal paradox”: while they have the potential to drive monumental success, they can also lead to catastrophic failure if not approached correctly.

At the heart of the paradox is the dual nature of stretch goals. On one hand, they can act as powerful motivators. These goals rally teams around a lofty vision. By challenging the status quo and demanding more than incremental improvements, stretch goals can lead teams to rethink processes and adopt new strategies. Major corporations and startups alike have tales of stretch goals leading to groundbreaking innovations and market disruptions.

On the other hand, stretch goals can backfire dramatically. If perceived as too unrealistic or unattainable, they can demoralize employees. This leads to disengagement and burnout. It can even cause unethical behaviors as people try to meet these targets at any cost. Also, organizations that lack the foundational strengths, resources, or capabilities necessary to tackle ambitious objectives might find themselves overextended. They end up wasting time and resources on projects that were doomed from the start.

The paradox becomes even more pronounced when businesses blindly adopt stretch goals without checking to see if they are really ready to accomplish them. A company that has the right resources and experience may thrive with stretch goals. In contrast, one that’s already struggling might find them exacerbating existing problems.

In essence, the stretch goal paradox underscores the need for discernment. Before setting them, leaders need to know for sure that their organization is capable of reaching those goals.



Assess Current Capabilities

To avoid the stretch goal paradox, always assess your current capabilities. Imagine if you were sailing a ship on a long journey. Before charting the waters ahead, you must first understand the ship’s current condition and capabilities. Jumping headfirst into setting monumental objectives without a grip on present realities is potentially setting yourself up for failure. To set stretch goals that are both challenging and achievable, a deep-dive analysis of the organization’s current standing is non-negotiable.

This includes a SWOT analysis, to examine the organization’s strengths, areas of improvement, potential opportunities, and looming threats. You should also evaluate your team and their capabilities. Is there a position that is currently vacant that needs to be filled? Is there a new position that needs to be created to meet operational or sales demands? Before trying to reach your stretch goals, these questions should be answered.


Give Your Teams and Employees Autonomy

As a leader, you cannot do it all nor should you. This is especially true when trying to reach stretch goals. That is why it is important to give your employees and teams autonomy throughout the process. Autonomy empowers individuals by placing trust in their capabilities. When employees feel trusted, they are more likely to take ownership of their work and go the extra mile to achieve objectives that challenge their abilities. 

This sense of responsibility can lead to more creative solutions and improvements in productivity. Employees are motivated to optimize their workflow in ways that management might not foresee. Also, when teams have the latitude to navigate their path towards ambitious goals, it encourages collaboration and the leveraging of diverse skill sets within the group. This not only helps them develop professionally, but it will help improve the company’s overall ability to problem-solve.


Break it Down

When viewing stretch goals in their entirety, they can seem overwhelming. Especially if it is your first time trying to accomplish these types of goals. It can sometimes feel like looking up at a mountain peak from its base. The solution lies in deconstruction. Break down the overarching goal into smaller, actionable milestones. 

By breaking down the larger aim into mini-objectives, the path forward becomes more tangible. Each segment provides clear direction and a momentary respite to recalibrate. It will also make it possible to stop and recalibrate if necessary. Once you break down your stretch goals into smaller chunks, the goal itself becomes less intimidating and more attainable.


Monitor Progress

Just setting a stretch goal and dissecting it into parts isn’t enough. You must consistently check your and your team’s progress to make sure you’re still on the right path. This involves more than sporadic check-ins; it means taking a systematic approach to tracking, evaluating, and recalibrating as needed.

It may be a good idea to institute regular review mechanisms. This could be a weekly discussion with your project manager, team, or leadership. It could also be monthly evaluations to make sure that teams are aligned and resources are being used in the right way.

These meetings are also a good time to make sure that any challenges are being addressed right away. As a leader, you don’t want to find out about a problem that has been hanging around a team’s process for six months.

Keep in mind that these reviews are not just for problem-solving and performance evaluation. They should also be platforms for acknowledging and celebrating milestones achieved. When you’re pursuing stretch goals, every small victory matters and can add fuel to the fire. By constantly monitoring, organizations not only ensure adherence to the set path but also foster a culture of transparency, adaptability, and resilience.


There is no doubt that stretch business goals can push teams beyond their comfort zones and into realms of exceptional achievement. Remember that the journey towards stretch goals is a continuous learning curve. Your business is going to experience both triumphs and setbacks. However, throughout the process, there are opportunities to grow and learn that will help you create a better business in the long run.

Also read:

9 Growth Goals for Businesses to Pursue

Team vs Individual Business Goals: Understanding Them Both

Outcome Goals Vs. Process Goals: The Importance of Using Both

Thomas Martin
Tom is a member of the Editorial Team at StartUp Mindset. He has over 6 years of experience with writing on business, entrepreneurship, and other topics. He mainly focuses on online businesses, digital publishing, marketing and eCommerce startups.

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Tom is a member of the Editorial Team at StartUp Mindset. He has over 6 years of experience with writing on business, entrepreneurship, and other topics. He mainly focuses on online businesses, digital publishing, marketing and eCommerce startups.

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