What Makes a Good Business Efficiency Goal?

Here's how to make an effective goal for change in your business: You need to be crystal clear when stating your project’s objectives. The more specific your project objectives are, the greater your chances are of achieving them. Here are some tips for developing clear objectives:

  • Be brief when describing each efficiency objective. If you take an entire page to describe a single objective, most people won’t read it. Even if they do read it, your objective probably won’t be clear and may have multiple interpretations.

  • Don’t use technical jargon or acronyms. Each industry (such as pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, finance, and insurance) has its own vocabulary, and so does each company within that industry. Within companies, different departments (such as accounting, legal, and information services) also have their own jargons.

    Because of this proliferation of specialized languages, the same three-letter acronym (TLA) can have two or more meanings in the same organization! To reduce the chances for misunderstandings, express your objectives in language that people of all backgrounds and experiences are familiar with.

  • Make your objectives S.M.A.R.T., as follows:

    • Specific: Define your objectives clearly, in detail, with no room for misinterpretation.

    • Measurable: State the measures and performance specifications you’ll use to determine whether you’ve met your objectives.

    • Aggressive: Set challenging objectives that encourage people to stretch beyond their comfort zones.

    • Realistic: Set reasonable objectives that are achievable.

    • Time sensitive: Include the date by which you’ll achieve the objectives.

  • Make your objectives controllable. Make sure that you and your team believe you can influence the success of each objective. If you don’t believe you can, you may not commit 100 percent to achieving it (and most likely you won’t even try). In that case, it becomes a wish, not an objective.

  • Identify all objectives. Time and resources are always scarce, so if you don’t specify an objective, you won’t (and shouldn’t) work to achieve it.

Beware of competitive goals. They bring out employees’ competitive natures, and the drive to win can, in some scenarios, lead some employees to sabotage others’ efficiencies. At best, it will mean individuals and teams are secretive about their processes, which does nothing to encourage efficiency broadly across the organization.

You can set a company-wide goal with a benefit (such as a day off or a catered lunch) that extends to everyone, but don’t create competitions that pit departments against departments (unless you’re at the company picnic!).

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