Bring back a bit of normal!

In normal times, businesses would have a vision. Resources and time would have been spent devising a set of goals along a road map to achieving this vision.

In normal times, leaders would imagine stretch goals, which seemed impossible, for teams and staff to aspire to.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many of these practices. In the initial months, all businesses have been scrambling in adjusting to a radically altered environment. This has caused upheaval and a massive reset.  The focus has been on near term actions and just getting things done.

As lockdowns are easing, businesses have begun to reopen.  Staff are likely to be feeling disconnected, disengaged and stressed particularly if their colleagues have been stood down or laid off.  A way of regaining some semblance of normalcy is through goal setting.

From a holistic perspective, what type of goals should the business be contemplating?  Should leaders be aspirational and create an audacious stretch goal (adjusted for pandemic environment)?

To be clear, a stretch goal is one which is either extremely difficult or extremely novel. While senior leaders are fond of creating stretch goals, they are commonly not achieved.  Sifting through the declarations made by Elon Musk gives ample evidence of missed goals.  However, there are companies such as Apple, Fujifilm and 3M that have achieved very ambitious goals.

What sets apart these companies is not the goal itself but the context and resources available.  If your business has recently been performing extremely well or has made a strong achievement, then setting a stretch goal would be seen as an opportunity to make even further progress. However, if your business has recorded weak results, then a stretch goal would be cynically viewed as unattainable.

It’s the same for a sports team.  If your team has performed well, then it would view a match with a major opponent as an exciting challenge. However, if your team is performing badly, then such a match would be regarded with fear.

As well, there needs to be ample, uncommitted resources within the business to take on a stretch goal.  If a business is constrained by resources, then to initiate a stretch goal would likely lead to failure as there would be insufficient capability needed to execute.

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