You may have experienced the challenge of setting annual goals. Your line manager asks you to engage with something that will be finished in up to twelve months. Sounds familiar and, at the same time, unrealistic? You are not alone. Just to put something and agree that it will be measured as completion after a certain period does not make it a structured goal. According to Harvard Bd Business review research on goal setting, forty-eight percent of the respondents answer that they start working on the annual goals after half of the time planned for them has already passed. Another eleven percent of the respondents respond that they are inconsistent while working on the yearly goals and try to complete them “when they have time.” With so much discrepancy between agreement and fulfillment, there is no surprise that fifty-seven percent of the leaders are not happy with the overall result people in their teams achieve and think that they have missed growth opportunities.
In my experience, I have seen several models of planning and executing goals. I have also used them; honestly, I never thought about annual planning as an annual process. That process must be set for a timely, trackable, and achievable result. One year is a too-long period. No one knows what can happen in such a long time. Look at the COVID pandemic. It turned from an isolated number of cases in one city into a world-changing event.
According to an interview extract from the Economist and analysis made on the topic, COVID has changed the plan for sixty-four percent of the companies in the US. Similar research by the European Union health organization states that the numbers in Europe are even higher – sixty-seven percent of the companies.
Unsurprisingly, long-term goal setting does not deliver the expected results in situations like this. As a result, companies need to reconsider the planning and execution process for their goals.
Long-term goals won’t disappear. However, they are now transformed into a vision of where we need to go and how to get there. We need to focus more on operational excellence in the short and mid-term. This approach is very well-known in sales. Teams selling products and services set an annual goal as a vision of what has to be achieved and then break down this vision into monthly plans or estimations. With this second level of goal setting, salespeople achieve results and grow results step by step. Although it is often overlooked, the same rule you can find in investing, developing new products, etc.
Monthly goal setting is one of the ways to help people achieve SMART goals. In most cases, people miss one or some elements when they plan for the month, which often causes planning and execution to fail. Here is a simple way to plan your goals in a way that they can be achieved and deliver results:
Create an achievable outline for the month
Many people miss when planning to decide what they can achieve in one-month realistically. With the intent to show how good we are at achieving everything fast, we often fall into the trap of promising much more than what we can achieve. From the first moment we start planning for the month, we must be aware know can realistically be achieved within our work environment. With that clear idea in mind, everyone can prepare in a more balanced way for the day, week, and month and manage delivery positively.
Have a clear idea of your next two to five steps
I made the same mistake as thirty-nine percent of the people participating in a Harvard Business Review research on Goals achievement levels. I bet you have been in the same situation several times. What many people miss is looking at the options for action. We have started executing our efforts and hope to reach the end successfully. When planning the monthly achievement, the intelligent thing to do is to look at how it can be achieved. The options will make you think about the possibility of each one. And the closest one to the environment you work in can easily be turned into an action plan.
Decide which way you want to go on.
As clear as a decision is, the more results it will generate. Going several ways and trying to achieve a goal differently can cause failure. After looking at the options, you will need to find the most suitable one and focus on it. One choice at the time focuses the efforts and creates higher results. The energy is implemented and canalized into a working plan with steps and resources allocated more balanced.
Create for yourself an understanding of possible issues
After executing our strategies for achieving monthly goals, we are often surprised by different issues showing our way. “Surprising issue” can cause a severe delay or even failure in attaining monthly goals. People often miss identifying potential problems that can come their way and thinking of strategies to minimize or remove them. Thinking proactively about what can happen allows the person to allocate resources to deal with it. Or, the minor surprising issues that pop up, the higher the level of achievement can become.
Have a clear view of available resources
“I will have to figure out how to get there.”
“I will need a miracle to achieve that.”
These and more similar phrases are often heard because people do not invest time in analyzing their resources and the potential resources they will need to achieve results and goals. Missing that analysis causes delays and even failure. No matter the destination, you need to know what options for support you have to achieve the goals. Maybe there is a library with courses, or a book library, or even a guy who is a magician in a software application and can help you learn what you need to get the job done, or there is a course in your area that can give you the knowledge or help you build the skills you need. You will need to review the list and find out if you have the resources to reach what you promised. Nothing less or more. If you cannot identify the level of resources available to finish the job, the goals will always take you by surprise and will always be a challenge and a struggle for you.
Setting monthly goals is not much different from receiving tasks every day. The difference between both is that while the functions are often operational and come in a short period, the goals are structured and set a direction for results you will have to deliver. Therefore, planning your monthly goals carefully and executing them with understanding, energy, and awareness of what you can achieve can guarantee non-stopping progress with small but consistent steps toward success.