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SLOPPY Goals

Apr. 9th, 2013

SLOPPY goal is an acronym for the type of goal that we’ve all been given and maybe even given out to others. It’s a goal that is: Senseless Limitless Obscure Pointless Painful, and You have to do it anyway! “Just fix it!” How many times have we heard that in the course of day-to-day business? This type of SLOPPY goal is likely to get a result that falls short of any unstated expectations. Given the incredible power that setting goals has for individuals and organizations, it’s surprising that it is so often overlooked as something to teach and develop. Instead, it’s just assumed that all managers are good at goal setting and that it comes to people naturally. Since all anyone in business is looking for is clarity and direction from Senior Management—and all Senior Management wants is flexibility and goal attainment from employees—we ought to be better at this! Take a look at the two fundamental parts of an effective goal. A goal should tell you where you are going and what success looks like when you get there. It’s no more complicated than that. To keep your goals from being labeled SLOPPY, first answer the question, “What do I want to have happen?” If reducing expenses is something that is required of your business, simply insisting that, “We must reduce expenses” is by itself a SLOPPY goal. It needs a lot more definition. But if you add the second part by explaining what success looks like—“We must reduce marketing expenses by 10%” the goal turns into something much more actionable. So the next time you set or get a SLOPPY goal, “Just fix it!” by asking: What needs to happen? What does success look like?