Your Business’s Long-Term Objectives & Its Ultimate Aspiration

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How can every employee contribute to an organization’s objectives? Why is it important to set both short-term and long-term goals?

In When They Win, You Win, employee experience expert Russ Laraway explains how you, as a manager, are responsible for helping your team contribute to your business’s goals. He divides these objectives into four tiers, starting with shorter-term goals and culminating in the company’s long-term goal.

Read more to learn about a business’s long-term objectives and its ultimate aspiration—and how these complement each other.

Your Business’s Goals

Laraway explains that each tier of goals supports the one above it. The foundational tier of goals is what he calls priorities—what workers get done daily or weekly. The second tier is what Laraway terms Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). This is what a person or team achieves in a somewhat longer timeframe: monthly, quarterly, or yearly. Tiers 3 and 4 are your business’s long-term objectives and its ultimate aspiration, respectively, and that’s what we’ll focus on here.

Your Business’s Long-Term Objectives

The third tier is what Laraway calls the company’s visionthe specific thing it’s trying to achieve. This is a major undertaking, often lasting for multiple years and requiring the entire company to work together. There might not be an obvious connection between an average employee’s day-to-day tasks and a company’s long-term goals—if that’s the case, then you should explain to your workers how and why their work is crucial in meeting those goals. In other words, explain to your employees exactly what you need them to do to support these long-term goals.

(Shortform note: Many employees aren’t directly involved in meeting tier 3 and tier 4 goals, and therefore it might not seem important to explain what those goals are or how their work helps to reach them. However, in The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge provides two reasons why it’s crucial for every employee to understand the company’s long-term, large-scale goals, as Laraway suggests. First, understanding the company’s goals will help them to set their personal goals accordingly. Second, an inspirational goal will motivate employees to do their best—in other words, it will boost their engagement.)

For example, The Ocean Cleanup is a nonprofit organization that aims to remove plastic pollution from the world’s oceans. One of the company’s multiyear goals or visions is to implement various plastic capture technologies in 1,000 rivers around the world. An employee whose job is, say, writing and sending newsletters to report on The Ocean Cleanup’s progress, might not see a direct connection between that task and the goal of implementing plastic capture technology. However, an effective manager could explain that regular newsletters are an important part of public relations, and are therefore crucial for getting donations so the company can keep removing plastic pollution.

(Shortform note: The way Laraway defines vision and mission (which we’ll get to shortly) is actually the opposite of how those words are usually used. Generally speaking, a company’s mission is what it’s trying to achieve right now, while its vision is the ultimate goal that the company hopes to achieve sometime in the future.)

Your Business’s Ultimate Aspiration

Finally, the highest tier of goals is the company’s ultimate aspiration, which Laraway calls its purpose or mission—in other words, the reason the company exists in the first place. Ideally, the company’s mission statement spells out this goal so that every employee knows what they’re ultimately working toward. 

This is a goal that’s likely to take many years to reach, possibly decades. Continuing the previous example, The Ocean Cleanup’s ultimate aspiration is to remove 90% of plastic from the world’s oceans. The employee writing newsletters should understand that their work, though not directly related to removing plastic from the oceans, still supports the company’s ultimate aspiration. 

Tip: Set a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal

A company’s ultimate aspiration will often be what the authors of Built to Last describe as a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG). They add that, when setting such a goal, there are three elements to consider.

1. Specificity. Your BHAG should be specific and concrete. In other words, there must be a way to know when you’ve reached your goal. For example, “increase sales” is not a specific goal, but “increase sales by 400%” is.

2. Audacity. A BHAG isn’t easily achieved, and it might even seem impossible. This is important because audacious goals take you out of your comfort zone; they push you to learn, improve your skills, and take risks that you might not normally take. For example, if you run a local grocery store, your audacious goal might be to grow into a nationally recognized supermarket chain—that will lead you to make more ambitious business decisions than if your only goal was to run that one store.

3. Alignment. Your BHAG must align with your company’s core values to motivate employees and keep your customers happy. For example, if your company values sustainability and environmentalism, but its ultimate goal is simply to increase profits, that goal might drive business leaders to pursue cheaper manufacturing options that damage the environment. 
Your Business’s Long-Term Objectives & Its Ultimate Aspiration

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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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