Three Key Dimensions of Organizational Goals

Organizational goal planning is a common activity that can happen any time of the year – but the New Year is a particularly good time for teams to regroup and reassess.  In this article, we provide a quick reminder of the general process involved in organizational planning, and then focus on the content of the goals themselves. This focused approach provides a repeatable process for assessing the content of your goals across three different key areas.

Strategic Planning:  A Refresher

Much has been written about the process used to plan organizational goals, which mirror the steps for a formal strategic planning process.  The general process, conducted across a team or organization over a weeks or months timeframe, includes:

  • Retrospective – Reviewing successes and gaps from the past year and identifying goals to carry forward or modify for the coming year.
  • Data Gathering – Gathering feedback from internal and external stakeholders to inform new goals and to build awareness of external factors and other criteria that may shape the organization and inform goal prioritization.
  • Environmental Scans and Analysis – Often organizations conduct a structured scan and analysis that considers the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This analysis can be used to identify the actions that might leverage strengths to address weaknesses, maximize opportunities and mitigate threats.
  • Stakeholder Analysis and Engagement – This step of the process identifies stakeholders that are both engaged and interested in the organization, as well as those who may have a lot of power, but are less involved.
  • Brainstorming and Clustering – This process is used to generate draft goals that can be then grouped and refined into different categories. The dimensions we review in the next step may help inform this process.  It is also useful to summarize the drivers, or criteria, that are used to select the final priorities, so people know the “why” behind the prioritization.
  • Finalizing and Socializing – In this step, the goals are reviewed and vetted with key stakeholders and then finalized as a starting point for the year.
  • Implementing and Communicating – Good strategic organization plans do not sit on a shelf – they are used to guide prioritization and execution over the year. Good plans help people stay focused and avoid being attracted to “shiny objects” that are interesting, but not necessarily essential, over the course of the year.  

These process steps highlight that much of the value in strategic planning is in the process and discussions themselves – the collaborative learning can help clarify and cut through the noise of everyday organizational life, and the outcome demonstrates the organization’s ability to reach consensus and move forward together.


Three Key Goal Categories

Now, let’s turn to a three-category framework that identifies new goals as a starting point, sorts through the initial goals you may have as an organization, and reveals blind spots if one of the three areas is particularly over- or under-represented.

These three general categories of consideration are seen in many different types of organizational models, from change management to leadership development.  The categories are listed here as:

  • Results and Outcomes
  • Processes and Technology
  • People and Relationships

These three areas support each other for organizational success but relate to one another in different ways and have different roles. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Results and Outcomes

This first category of goals is often what people think of when they consider organizational goal planning – it’s all about organizational performance: outputs and outcomes.  These goals are the “top line” goals that the organization generally must achieve to demonstrate their value to internal and external stakeholders. They generally capture and reflect the mission of the organization.  Here are some examples of goals in this category:

  • Goals related the achievement of certain sales levels, market share, or customer counts
  • Goals and metrics related to product or service delivery
  • Goals related to new product or service launches
  • Quality goals that are directly related to the mission-focused product or service, such as product or service defects, returns, or other quantitative or qualitative measures of satisfaction

Process and Technology

This second category includes all the systems – including technology systems – that are used to generate the organization’s results and outcomes.  These goals relate to how the organization achieves its mission and performs well to do so. Each of these goals may have its own outcome or result, but the emphasis is on results that facilitate the achievement of other outcomes or outputs.

For example, in most cases, unless you are a technology firm that sells software and hardware, technology is an enabler of an organization’s success, not the direct reason for that organization’s being.  Technology supports the organization’s ability to be successful – it is not an end on its own.

Here are other examples of organizational goals that fall into this category:

  • Business process improvement goals that involve process reengineering or Lean Six Sigma, and that may address previous challenges in achieving quality goals related to a product or service
  • Goals related to workflow mapping and role clarity, so that activities and handoffs between department and people are clear, with an effective balance of boundaries and integration
  • Projects that are designed to increase the organization’s effectiveness and efficiency, as measured by throughput, time-to-market, days-to-completion or work-in-progress measures.
  • Technology goals that automate or streamline part of a business process or practice, where the launch of a software module may be the outcome or result that supports other goals of the organization
  • Launch of a new process or tool that assesses success in a specific area, like customer satisfaction surveys or ongoing feedback mechanisms

People and Relationships

This third category of goals relates to people and relationships – both internal and external. These are often goal areas that are not explicitly articulated in plans, as they are assumed to occur as part of regular business.  However, making these “people-focused goals” more explicit makes invisible labor more visible, and rewards the bridge-builders of the organization who establish the networks and connections for the next big deal, partnership or even acquisition to occur.

These goals are also critical for letting the organization’s staff know that they are seen and valued – that organization goals are not just about delivery outward, but also about performance inward.

Examples of these goals include:

  • Goals related to organizational human resources, such as recruiting and hiring, retention, employee development, diversity development and performance management. For example, this could include goals related to recruitment event attendance, days-to-hire metrics, measures of diversity in staff or staffing levels compared to targets.
  • Goals related to partnerships with other stakeholders or industry groups, such as teaming relationships, joint marketing efforts or other collaborative initiatives that could build future business.
  • Goals related to community development and support, such as community outreach and volunteer targets, or cause-based fundraising. These types of activities can build goodwill both internally and externally, so making them visible and concrete keeps organizations accountable for giving back to the communities they work in.

Next Steps

Pryor offers courses across these three focus areas. Here are examples of programs you can search for:

  • Our popular courses on managing priorities and time management help you gain more control over your time, tasks and priorities.
  • The video series “Accountability” helps supervisors translate goals into actions by their staff.
  • Courses on project management teach you how to translate goals into project plans and outcomes, and achieve process efficiencies
  • Pryor’s communications, leadership, and emotional intelligence training helps build your relationship management skills.

In summary, a balanced organization planning process considers three key areas – results, process, and people. Effective plans describe how a specific goal touches on or draws from all three areas.  The categories discussed in this article help organizations identify blind spots, drive prioritization and achieve balance across multiple areas of achievement.

It is useful to note that the degree of emphasis in any one area – results, process or people – may largely be driven by organization culture and leadership style.  People-focused organizations may start with relationship-oriented goals, seeing them as a driver for the results that follow.  Process-based organizations may focus on strengths and weaknesses first, to see where efficiencies – and resulting success – may be found.  Strongly market-facing organizations may begin with goal-oriented results, and then add in process- and people-oriented goals that directly support those targets.

Wherever your organization begins, start somewhere!  The new year is a great time to reboot and refresh, to start the year out thoughtfully and well.  Happy Goal-Oriented New Year!