5 Ways Strategic Business Goals Fail (And What to Do About It)

Strategic business goals set by companies fail 70 percent of the time.  The problem is that team members can’t translate the goals into their actions. The very nature of strategic goal setting involves recognizing that achievement is improbable. 

Stressed businessman surrounded by colleagues in a tense meeting.

In reality, what determine your end goals are the systems you create to reach them. Don’t confuse systems with goals. It’s a goal to increase sales 5 percent by next quarter, but it’s a system to reach out to customers twice a week until then.

So why do strategic business goals fail?

1. They breed fear of success or failure.

The goal of increasing sales 5 percent by next quarter begins as a source of inspiration and becomes increasingly stressful, holding you accountable should you fail.

Break larger goals down into smaller steps to create stepping stones towards progress. For example, your stepping stone to increase sales could be to develop three marketing plans every Monday. In due time, Monday marketing plans become a path to bettering your brand with fast and brilliant content. When you can focus on small steps, it’s easier to see and celebrate the progress along the way–and you have a little leeway with how you get there.

2. Goals are designed to keep you dissatisfied.

You want to find a new job by next week, but first you need to browse the Internet a few hours to seek the latest interview tips. All the while, you’re reminded that you haven’t even landed an interview, let alone received a call-back. You become increasingly discouraged and stop your research.

Recognize that completing small tasks are marks of achievement. For example, instead of thinking about how you don’t  have an interview, you can remind yourself that the act of improving your communication skills makes you a stronger candidate overall. Not only does this build momentum, but it also keeps you focused on the process of doing. Consequently, the temptation to procrastinate starts to fall away. Systems build confidence. They show us what we can do, little by little, to reach our goal, without worrying about the end result.

3. Goals are defined by perfect results and all-or-nothing thinking.

For example, your goal is to land a job before the end of the year.  You get busier with the holidays and skip three days of job hunting. You start to feel like you’ve already failed in meeting your goal.

Before even attempting your goal, pinpoint weak areas. In this case, the holidays is one of the busier times in most people’s year and an obvious area of weakness. A perfect system to prepare for this setback is to agree to make up for lost time once the holidays are over. This way, you prepare yourself beforehand for a temporary setback without having to feel like you’ve failed.

4. Strategic business goals can create unrealistic expectations.

Reality check–apart from the children of Millionaires, lottery winners, and royalty—we aren’t going to get rich quick.

If your goal is to make a million dollars or become a professional athlete, don’t expect greatness to happen overnight. Hone your craft a little bit every day to build yourself up to your goal until practice becomes as automatic as brushing your teeth before bed.

 5. They create a Yo-Yo effect.

Because goals require stubborn, head-on commitment, they tend to dissolve as soon as they are even partially derailed. For instance, your goal may be to improve your public speaking to feel confident enough to speak at a seminar. One missed day of Communications class turns into regret or dismay, which often leads to multiple missed days, and then giving up.

Instead of focusing on what you failed to do, come up with incentives to keep you going. A great incentive, in this case, would be to build friendships with the other students. You may be motivated to learn from them and show support, resulting in more classroom participation. Systems tell us that, even when “life happens,” we can be on the road to success and that it’s never too late to make adjustments.

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