Business Targets – Good or Bad?

‘9950! I just need to go up and down stairs a few times; I’m nearly there!’ 

Are you hooked on your 10000 steps a day? It’s that time of year again when we review how those new year resolutions are going. Use the stairs, eat less sugar, get off the bus a stop early.

With the state of obesity and the impact on a stretched NHS, there’s a real abundance of programmes and adverts out there helping us to eat better, sleep better and particularly move more. The aim is 10000 steps a day. Apparently that number was a pretty random figure, yet like me, you probably know someone who is addicted to achieving it daily.

Many of us have started to use watches and fitbits to measure our activity and keep us focused on our daily steps target. Research has shown we can get so hooked on our target that we’ll (literally) keep going that extra mile, to ensure we achieve it.

So if personal targets like this can work so effectively, what about business? Are targets in business good or bad? Well, I would say that it really depends on the target.

Did you hear the one about the train driver that went straight through every station to ensure he kept to his timetable! (Probably an urban myth.) But I did know of an organisation whose target was to process work in two days. So guess what happened to work not completed in that time? Yes, it got fitted in as and when, so managers could concentrate on getting new work done in the timescale by which they’d be judged. These managers were celebrated even though their old work was piling up. But at that time the age and level of that work was not a target and not measured, until it began to impact on the Customer. You probably have your own examples of targets where true customer service is not at their heart.

If you set a target and either celebrate it’s achievement or give people hell if it’s not reached, guess what? People will start to deliver it at any cost. If that target is not holistic or engenders fear of failure, somewhere down the line the business and your people will suffer.

So there can be dangers in target setting but also great rewards.

So what makes a good target?

A good target will always take you towards your business vision – so you need to be clear about that for starters.

It will be holistic – in the best interests of both your Customer and your business to engender a culture of excellence.

You can’t set targets just to improve profit – you’ll probably succeed in the short term, but what will the long-term cost be if you’ve achieved your target by cutting corners on quality?

Equally, you can set targets aimed at driving Customer satisfaction above everything else, but this could cause big problems if you ignore the needs of your business profit.

You want productivity – but if you focus on productivity without any thought for quality, customer focus or value for money, you may end up being very productive doing all the wrong things.

You get the gist.

Targets, like your SMART* goals, will be challenging, but achievable. You’ll be able to measure them, and celebrate their achievement with the team.

The very best targets drive your people and your business to excel and give everyone a real sense of achievement – just like your fitbit!

Do one thing: Review your business plans and ask yourself – are my plans a route map to my business vision / my destination? Do I have targets as key milestones along the way and are those targets holistic with the customer at their heart? Do they create a culture of excellence? Is my whole team involved in their creation and achievement?

For more information on how MPL can help you, contact us here:

*SMART goals traditional definition:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Realistic

T – Time-bound


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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