Five Tips for Setting Meaningful Targets

Posted on by CATALYSIS

How do you know if you are improving if you don’t measure progress against targets? The truth is you don’t. Setting targets and measuring progress towards them is a fundamental component of continuous improvement.  The trouble is that if you don’t set meaningful targets you will not be able to understand whether your efforts are actually helping you improve.

Here are some tips for setting meaningful targets.

Make sure they are specific

Always ensure your target is specific. A general target will be very difficult to measure. It is helpful to indicate what the objective is, who is responsible for it and what steps will be taken to achieve that objective. For example, if the goal is to increase something, like employee engagement scores, make sure you define how much you want to increase using a specific number or a percentage.

Consider how you will measure progress

Once you have a specific target identified you need to consider how you will measure it. What data do need to have to measure progress? Determine how you will collect that information and how often you will visit the data.

Keep expectations realistic

Of course, we want to seek perfection, but it is important to keep expectations realistic when setting targets. If your target is unattainable it will set your team up for failure and may negatively impact engagement in the implementation of countermeasures to achieve it.

Connect the target to the organization’s true north

Connecting the target to the organization’s True North shows why this goal matters to the team and the organization. This will help everyone see why this particular work is relevant to the big picture. If a goal or target does not connect to True North, it may be time to evaluate whether this work should be done now or if it should be put on hold to focus on other work that will make a more direct impact.

Set expectations around achieving the target

Lastly, it is important to establish  expectations around when the target should be achieved. How much, by when? This allows everyone to be on the same page and can encourage PDSA cycles to make sure that if the data is not moving in the right direction your team adjusts the plan to achieve the target. If the target is not time-bound it is easy to get lax and not be proactive with implementing countermeasures.

Setting meaningful goals is a fundamental step in the continuous improvement process. Measuring progress against these targets will encourage PDSA and progress toward achieving the goal. Please share what you have learned about setting targets or examples of SMART goals in the comment section below.



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