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Updated Apr 10, 2024

Visualizing Success: How to Set Up Effective Quarterly Goals

Get the most out of your business goals by breaking them down to actionable items completed over short time periods.

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Julie Thompson, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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Everyone sets goals, but not many achieve them primarily because they make a list for the year and stop there. To achieve your business goals effectively, you need to break them down into actionable items over a shorter time frame. 

But where do you start? Here’s our six-step strategy you can use to help clients and your company meet quarterly goals

How to set up effective quarterly goals

1. Visualize the big picture. Where do you want to be in one year?

First, start with primary goals for the year and the initiatives that can help achieve those goals. 

Examples of goals include:

  • Reaching a particular revenue target
  • Signing on a specific number of customers
  • Increasing production output by 30 percent

2. Create quarterly and monthly segmentation.

From there, break those initiatives into four parts, each representing one quarter of the year. Along with these initiatives, 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, use that time frame of 12 weeks to spread out the milestones in a way that is realistic to your team’s available time, skill sets and resources.

TipBottom line
Utilize project management software that allows your team to create goals, organize tasks and track progress.

3. Plan weekly milestones and meetings.

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

Schedule a separate meeting if a longer explanation or concerns need to be addressed. It’s important that the standing meeting’s sole purpose is to update the team — not for detailed discussions. This method will allow your meetings to be highly effective and efficient. 

4. Focus on communication and collaboration.

Every two weeks, 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 everyone on target during each of the 30-day milestone periods to reach those quarterly goals. 

FYIDid you know
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. Catching any pinch points early can help you from going too far down the wrong path.

5. Stick to the list, but pivot when necessary.

Even the best-laid plans go astray due to unforeseen circumstances and there will be unexpected things that you didn’t anticipate. Sometimes, things change because people decide to add to the initiatives or milestones list, also called “scope creep.” 

However, it’s essential to only initiate additions or changes when necessary. It is OK to pivot in the direction of goals or a project when there are signs that your plan is not working, in light of new research or after feedback from customers.

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

You need to ask yourself and your team the following question: “By adding the new initiative, will it be enough of a substantial benefit to risk delays or use up resources that may hurt reaching the previous set milestones?”  If the initiative doesn’t fit, then it’s essential 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.

Did You Know?Did you know
If a pivot needs to occur due to an active and well-researched decision, you will need to sit the team down and share an updated quarterly goal roadmap. Having the whole team on board with the pivot can help eliminate any communication issues going forward.

6. Review and reassess.

Once the process is set up, analyze the model going forward. Before starting a new year, plan out a strategy session (November is a good month for this) with your team. Take the plans from the previous four quarters and review what was accomplished in terms of the primary goal. Reassess any areas or milestones where the team missed the target.

Use the misses as examples 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.

Entrepreneurs are a fairly optimistic group and can get sidetracked easily. It’s essential to focus on and complete current initiatives vs. having too many incomplete projects.

You will soon discover that when there are too many unachieved initiatives, it will be difficult to move forward. You will also be forced to tack on new ones because you’re trying to keep up with industry changes and your customer needs.

Best strategies for goal development and management

By creating quarterly goals, you can establish habits that can help your success rate by:

  • Making each quarterly goal and milestone as actionable and specific as possible: It must define the action that can contribute to the primary goal, who should do it, what tools can be used and how long they have to achieve it.
  • Leveraging the many online planning, scheduling, project and collaboration tools: 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 remote companies because it facilitates communication and collaboration.
  • Accomplishing two to three goals well: Focusing on two to three goals and completing them is better than tacking on four to five each quarter and failing miserably. 

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

 Shirley Tan contributed to this article.

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Julie Thompson, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
With nearly two decades of experience under her belt, Julie Thompson is a seasoned B2B professional dedicated to enhancing business performance through strategic sales, marketing and operational initiatives. Her extensive portfolio boasts achievements in crafting brand standards, devising innovative marketing strategies, driving successful email campaigns and orchestrating impactful media outreach. Thompson's proficiency extends to Salesforce administration, database management and lead generation, reflecting her versatile skill set and hands-on approach to business enhancement. Through easily digestible guides, she demystifies complex topics such as SaaS technology, finance trends, HR practices and effective marketing and branding strategies. Moreover, Thompson's commitment to fostering global entrepreneurship is evident through her contributions to Kiva, an organization dedicated to supporting small businesses in underserved communities worldwide.
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