5 Mistakes Leaders Make When Creating Goals for Their Strategic Plan


There are common traps that business leaders fall into in setting the goals for their strategic plans. Every single client I have worked with as a business strategy consultant runs into the same challenges, but with some discipline, they can be overcome.  

We’ll have planning sessions during which the team comes up with great ideas for things that will move the business forward, and they’ll jot down some basic goals with the intention of fleshing them out later. But then, when I go to follow up with them a few weeks later to look at their goals, I often find them lacking.

In EOS or any other strategic framework, you start with your BHAG (10 year goal), break it down and decide what you will achieve in 3 years. Usually, you’ll set annual priorities and then further break those down to what needs to happen quarterly to drive your company goals forward. In the quarter you’re doing the execution planning for, you need to plan out your goals in detail.


Why It’s Crucial to Get Your Goals Right 

If you don’t create your goals correctly, at the end of the quarter you’ll probably find that either people don’t even remember what the goals were about, know if they’ve been successful, or the goal slides until the end of the quarter without progress because you didn’t create an action plan for it. 

So how do you ensure that you create a set of goals for which the execution doesn’t fall flat?


Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Goals for Your Strategic Plan

1. Choosing Operational Goals Instead of Strategic Goals

You need goals that drive your strategy forward. All too often, business leaders get bogged down in the day-to-day details, which trickles into their decisions about what goals to set. 

For example, if you’ve got an IT business, solving x number of tickets is not a strategic goal, it’s an operational one. However, something like implementing a new feature that improves the infrastructure would be strategic.

Strategic goals are those that revolve around finding ways to do things better to move the business ahead. It’s about driving the business forward by thinking differently.


2. Failing to Word Your Strategic Objectives Clearly

When the goals in your strategic plan are not carefully worded, you’ll find it pretty hard to measure your progress. The question you should be asking yourself about every goal is ‘how do we know when it’s done?’. If your answer to this question is unclear, then you haven’t scoped the goal well enough!

Creating super-clear SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals is vital to enable the team to hold you accountable for it happening.


3. Choosing a Goal That Depends on Something You Cannot Control

When leaders choose goals that involve too many variables that are not within their control, they are likely to fail miserably. I was working with a company that was trying to do an acquisition, and they created a goal to close that acquisition by the end of the quarter. 

Unfortunately, there were many factors outside of their control – due diligence work to be done, agreement from the seller, and getting financing approval, to name a few. With so many things in the process they couldn’t control, it’s no surprise that they didn’t achieve it. Half of their action plan was waiting on other people.

You need to create strategic goals that you can reasonably achieve without relying on other factors to go your way.


4. Failing to Create an Execution Plan

Even if you create a SMART goal that’s clear, strategic, and within your control, your chances of achieving it are slim unless you create an execution plan. If you don’t have a way to take stock of your progress, it’s going to make it hard to know how to course-correct to drive towards your objectives.

Goals rarely happen in isolation. Great leaders engage the team in developing an execution plan. When creating strategic goals, you need to sit down and have a conversation with all the stakeholders to make sure the goals make sense, will have the impact that you expect, and that people’s schedules allow them to make the goals a reality.

In a perfect world, you’d create a milestone for every one of the 13 weeks in a quarter so you can measure progress and know right away if things are slipping, and you need to adjust your plan. Without an execution plan, you may get several weeks in and then realize ‘whoops, this isn’t achievable!” just because you haven’t thought the goal through all the way.


5. Not Talking About Your Strategic Goals Often Enough

One of the most important ways to drive accountability for rocks is to make them public and discuss them regularly. This means talking about goals with:

  • Your execution team to ensure that progress is going the way you expect
  • Your leadership-level team so that you’re being held accountable by your peers for that execution

As a B2B business consultant, I recommend reviewing every single rock on a weekly basis to make sure it’s on track. If the team is not on track to achieve the rock, then you can troubleshoot as a team to figure out how to get back on track or have a conversation about whether you need to make some changes.

If you’re a manager or executive in the business, it’s the job of your peers to hold you accountable. In leadership meetings, if you don’t have a solid execution plan (see #4 above) then what is considered “off track” or “on track” is totally subjective! When you have a clear plan, you can identify when you’re truly off course so that your team can figure out how to help. 

Avoid these five mistakes, and you’ll be crushing your rocks quarter after quarter and consistently driving the business forward. Want to discuss this further? Let’s set up a call and talk about how you can create great strategic goals for your business.

Mike Knapp


Mike has been helping businesses achieve their goals for more than 20 years. He believes there is a better way for business owners and leaders to build their businesses and achieve their big goals. As a Gravitas Impact Premium coach, he leverages the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth™ to simplify the art of strategy and discipline of execution.

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