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Visualizing Success: How To Set Up Effective Quarterly Goals

Shirley Tan
Shirley Tan

Everyone sets goals but not many achieve them primarily because they make a list for the year and leave it that way.

Everyone sets goals but not many achieve them primarily because they make a list for the year and leave it that way.

In fact, in order to achieve your business goals, you need to break them down into actionable items over a shorter time frame.

When implemented in quarterly, monthly, and even weekly increments, you have much more control, definition, and scope over what you are doing in relation to the overall goal that you have a greater chance of actually achieving it.

Here’s a strategy I’ve used in helping clients as well as my company’s quarterly goals:

Step One

Visualize the Big Picture. Where Do You Want to Be in 1 Year?

I start with my primary goals for the year and the initiatives that can help achieve those goals. Examples of these goals include reaching a certain revenue target, signing on a specific number of customers, or increasing production output by 30 percent.

Step Two

Create Quarterly and Monthly Segmentation

From there, I break down those initiatives into four parts with each part representing one quarter of the year. Along with these initiatives, I set milestones for each of the four quarters that are action items with responsible parties on the team and a deadline within that quarter.

Since there are three months in each quarter, I use that time frame of 12 weeks to spread out the milestones in a way that is realistic to my team’s available time, skill sets and resources.

Step Three

Plan Weekly Milestones and Meetings

For each month, I also set weekly milestones. To ensure everyone understands what those milestones are and who is responsible for what task, I hold a standing daily meeting of just 10 to 15 minutes. Those involved with each milestone can provide an updates on what they have completed, what they are working today, share wins  and seek help on removing obstacles.

If any longer explanation or concerns need to be addressed, I schedule a separate meeting. It’s important to discern that the standing meetings sole purpose is to update the team and not used for detailed discussions. This method will allow your standing meetings to be highly effective and efficient.

Step Four

Focus on Communication and Collaboration

Every two weeks, I connect with the team for about 30 minutes  to one hour (depending on how big the team is) to ensure things are moving as planned. This helps keep all of us on target during each of the 30-day milestone periods to reach those quarterly goals. You won’t have to wait until the end of the quarter to know if you’re ahead, falling behind or on track to meet set milestones.

Step Five

Stick to the List, but Pivot When Necessary

Even the best laid plans go astray due to unforeseen circumstances and there will be things that come up that you didn’t anticipate. Sometimes, things change, because people decide to add to the initiatives or milestones list also called “scope creep”. I have been guilty of  adding new initiatives along the way just to see if I can squeeze in more accomplishments.

However, I learned early on to keep any additions or changes for when they are absolutely necessary. It is okay to pivot in direction on goals or a project when there are signs that your plan is not working or achieving the primary goal due to new research or feedback from customers.

Whether it is a new milestone or a pivot in the direction of the company, it’s important to thoughtfully review those changes and determine if they will make a positive difference to your primary goal.

The question you need to ask yourself and your team is, “by adding the new initiative will it be enough of a substantial benefit to risk delays or using up resources that may hurt reaching the previous set milestones?”  If they don’t, then it’s important to recognize the effort of a team member that proposed the  idea for the change but explain why it does not help in reaching the current milestone and primary goal.

If a pivot needs to occur due to an active and well-researched decision,  you will need to take the time to sit the team down and share an updated quarterly goal roadmap.

Step Six

Review and Re-Assess

Once the process was set-up, I knew it would be my model going forward as this would have to be repeated on an annual basis. Before starting a new year, usually when I plan out my strategy session (November is a good month for this) with my team, I take the plans from the previous four quarters and review what was accomplished in terms of the primary goal and re-assess any areas or milestones where the team missed the target.

These misses are ways for me to identify learning or skills gaps, communication or teamwork issues, or motivation problems that all have to be addressed. This framework and any changes made to it sets the stage for the new primary and quarterly goals that have to be developed for the next year of business.

One of the things I learned not just from my own experience but with clients is that as entrepreneurs we are fairly optimist group and sometimes we take on more than we can chew.  It’s important to focus and complete current initiatives versus having too many incomplete initiatives.

You will soon discover that  when there are too many unachieve initiatives,  you’ll still be talking about the same prior initiatives but  also be forced to tack on new ones because you’re trying to also keep up with industry changes and your customer needs.

Overall Quarterly Goal Development and Management

Over the years of creating my quarterly goals, I have learned some best practices to pass on that can help your success rate:

  • Make each quarterly goal and milestone as actionable and specific as possible. It must define the action to take that can contribute to the primary goal, who should do it, what tools can be used, and how long they have to achieve it.
  • Leverage the many online planning, scheduling, project and collaboration tools available like Basecamp. They make the process of developing and managing quarterly goals more efficient and help keep everyone in the loop about what progress has been made and what needs to be completed. It’s especially beneficial for companies like mine where much of my team is virtual because it facilitates communication and collaboration.
  • Don’t pick too many quarterly goals to accomplish because you are setting yourself up for failure. Instead, focus on doing two to three well and completely them rather than tacking on four to five each quarter and failing miserably. (I see this happen all too frequently, unfortunately)

Once you start with quarterly goal implementation, you’ll never return to an annual overview of what you want to accomplish because seeing goals being met at a faster rate is a great motivator for you, as a leader, and for the team.

Image Credit: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock
Shirley Tan
Shirley Tan
Community Member
Shirley Tan works at Aabaco Small Business from Yahoo. Aabaco operates Small Business platform that provide resources for entrepreneurs. As Director of Product Support, she is responsible for growth initiatives & product planning. In 1997, she took a mail order business online. She went on to form several successful ecommerce websites on the Yahoo Small Business Platform. Eventually a publicly traded company acquired her businesses. Shirley is regular speaker at conferences, worked as a consultant on various projects, she also authored an Amazon best rated book on ecommerce called "Ecom Hell" Joining Yahoo brings her full circle with her passion in helping small businesses succeed.