How many of your organisational goals do you really achieve? We all know that to stand any chance of success, we should clearly define a goal. Yet although we may know of models such as SMART or Well Formed Conditions, do we really use these effectively when we set goals for the organisation?

Of course, the trouble with ‘tests’ is that they become too familiar and we assume the criteria has been satisfied – rather like the bad habits we get after years of driving! As a coach & facilitator for the past eight years, I have found many a goal wanting, so spending time with people to clarify what it is they really want is always time well spent.

In the context of organisational goals, I often adopt Lovejoy’s tests. Made up of eight criteria, the goal is examined both mercilessly and constructively to arrive at a clear definition. For each of the tests here are a few prompts.

The Customer Test – how will the stated GOAL benefit the customer?

  • Be clear who the customers of this GOAL are, make a note of them, prioritise them where you can.
  • Review the wording of the GOAL and see whether the language reflects the needs and benefits of the customer or you!
  • Be clear about the outcome for the customer not just an internal measure of success. For example, if you deliver ‘work-first-time’ products to customers you also improve internal productivity, but the benefit to the customer should be foremost in the expression of your GOAL.

The Means Test – does the GOAL specify the means by which it will be achieved?

  • Are you explicit about ‘how’ you will deliver the GOAL: a process, a series of methods etc? The means must be obvious to everyone.

The Identity Test – does the GOAL make it clear who does what?

  • Does the GOAL use the words ‘it’ or ‘they’, ‘them’ or similar, if so or if it isn’t even there then you need to replace these with the specific object, department, person or people concerned. The word ‘it’ can mean anything to any reader.

The Measurement Test – is the GOAL measurable?

  • How will you measure when you have got there and if you are staying there?
  • What indicators can you use? You cannot fly the aircraft without instruments for any length of time safely!
  • What are the types of measure: quantity, quality, cost, income that you could possibly use?
  • Is there an existing measurement system you can use? Is it used by other parts of the business or industry?
  • Can you design an appropriate measurement system?

The Sufficiency Test – are there any circumstances in which achieving the GOAL would not be enough?

  • Imagine you have achieved the GOAL, now think about possible circumstances in which it is insufficient, or even irrelevant.
  • You may be at risk of doing the wrong thing brilliantly, e.g. quicker delivery of the wrong parts.

The Side-Effect Test – could achieving the GOAL produce any adverse side effects?

  • Again, imagine you have achieved the GOAL; now think about how it has been achieved; think about any side effects that may result, e.g. costs may rise beyond budget, less obvious is a decline in the working conditions of staff
  • Does it make the job more difficult, less enjoyable; did people keep the old job because of how they were allowed to do it?
  • Eliminating an undesirable side effect at this point can be quite simple; it is certainly more effective than trying to remove it once the system is up and running.
  • Preparing for a side effect and making it a desirable benefit, reframes everyone’s thinking, e.g. exposing and then removing the opportunity for some to slack at the expense of others.

The Assumption Test – are you basing your GOAL on any untested assumptions?

  • Are you assuming that a particular change will result in a particular effect, e.g. creating role clarity will lead to greater productivity, and therefore to quicker development time, therefore quicker delivery of product?
  • If so, what experience supports this, is the experience relatable or translatable to this project?

The Jargon Test – can the GOAL be understood by everyone involved?

  • It is vital that everyone involved in this project, no matter at what level understands exactly what you are trying to achieve, the GOAL should be in plain English.