Intermediate Goals: Milestones of Success

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Scaling Up" by Verne Harnish. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you set intermediate goals as benchmarks toward your major goals? What difference can they make?

In Scaling Up, Verne Harnish argues that setting and reaching intermediate goals contributes to team buy-in and the ultimate achievement of your vision. They also give you a chance to learn what’s working and what isn’t.

Read more to learn about intermediate goals.

Setting Intermediate Goals

Harnish writes that you need to set smaller, intermediate goals on the path to larger goals toward the fulfillment of the vision. Since your main goal is likely a multi-year effort, your intermediate goals should be broken up into monthly, quarterly, and yearly benchmarks. This is crucial to successful implementation because these intermediate goals—and the public celebration of them when they’re met or exceeded—helps secure buy-in and align the entire company with the vision. When people see genuine progress being made, it makes it far easier for them to get on board with the vision and see their individual roles and responsibilities as part of a company-wide strategy to make that vision a reality.

Intermediate goals can also be important learning opportunities. If you miss an intermediate goal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your strategy is doomed. Instead of reacting hastily and pulling the plug on the entire scaling-up plan (as far too many companies do), Harnish advises that you take a breath and try to figure out what happened. Often, it’s just a matter of reallocating resources and fine-tuning some processes to get the outcome you want. Indeed, there’s usually a productive lesson to be learned and applied.

(Shortform note: You can break the intermediate goals down even further into actionable business objectives. These are the specific steps that people in your company must take to achieve an intermediate goal. Thus, if one of your short-term goals is to add five new people to the sales staff by the end of the quarter, actionable business objectives might include posting the jobs to Indeed, screening candidates, and scheduling interviews by the end of the month. All actionable business objectives should be assigned to a specific person and have specific, targeted deadlines.)

Intermediate Goals: Milestones of Success

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Here's what you'll find in our full Scaling Up summary:

  • Advice on how to guide your company as it grows from a small company to a large firm
  • Why founders need to eventually give up some of their input and power
  • How to build an all-star team—from senior leadership to rank-and-file

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She has always appreciated nonfiction, especially about history, politics, and ideas. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. As a former intelligence analyst and a teacher of critical thinking skills, Elizabeth enjoys analyzing arguments on all sides of an issue. Her nonfiction preferences include theology, science, and philosophy. She studies the intersection of these three in pursuit of the highest truths. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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