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The setting of strategic objectives

So, “tell me” says the investigating management consultant to the new young company chairperson, “what’s your companies long term goals?”.

The chairperson pauses, and points to a framed document on the wall “The long-range objectives of the snug fit corset company”. The document lists several goals, providing more and better foundation garments at the lowest possible price; providing the best possible service to customers; acting in a responsible manner; making a reasonable profit; and so on.

But the chairperson feels a little uncomfortable about his answer, and it is nothing to do with his ill-fitting underwear. He like all of us, appreciates that it is a very difficult matter to have a clear and fixed idea of where we are going, and of our long-term goals. We suspect that whatever we say today may not be what we feel tomorrow. We want to hold an option to change our minds. The further we try to look ahead, the more the future is clouded by pictures framed with doubt and uncertainty.

Why is it so difficult for a person or an organisation to set itself long term objectives? One reason is that thinking about current tasks tends to drive out thinking about what may lie ahead. We pay attention to the doctor’s appointment at 9am tomorrow because it is scheduled. We push aside thinking about the future we need to think about pressing deadlines. We are also conscious of the fact that the world keeps changing. So why bother try hitting a moving target anyway?

Well, objectives give us a sense of purpose and direction. Establishing them involves thinking about likely events before they occur, so that systematically sitting down and looking ahead in an increasing complex world especially after Covid19, gives us a much-needed lengthening of the decision-making process. By so doing we are trying to make things happen, instead of just blindly reacting to events as they occur. Objectives clearly defined, provide a framework and a set of guidelines for different parts of your business to choose between alternative courses of action. The range of objectives to be set is wide-ranging, but they should include statement about the kind of product or service to be offered; the type of market to be aimed at; the ethics governing relations with customers, employees and the community; the return expected on investment, and all of those targets should be defined in clear and measurable terms.

That the process of setting your business objectives is not enough in itself. Just as important is the communication and adoption of those guidelines through the length and breadth of your business. Objectives need to be flexible too, responsive to forces outside which might affect the course we’re steering but sensitive to opinion and ideas from within your business which may identify new opportunities and challenges which could profitably be explored.

So, the setting of your business objectives, poses two kinds of organisational problem. The first concerns the difficulties associated with the very process of thinking ahead and choosing between many alternative paths before us. The second involves deriving your business structure and communication network which will allow objectives to be effectively disseminated, so that each segment and individual within your organisation towards achieving a single set of long-term goals. Click the services menu above, or contact us now.

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