Suppose you are a businessperson running an enterprise or have a strategic plan to start a new venture. The two most important terms you will come across are goals and objectives.
Every business website features its different types of goals and objectives on the homepage. Startups need clearly defined objectives to provide a direction of operations.
Aspiring achievers and efficient individuals often mention their dreams and measuring goals. Often, these two terms are used in the same context and synonymously.
This common misperception blurs the lines that define the two. But, interestingly, goals and objectives are two different things. Although both are part of the same process, they have some key differences in scope, order, and measurability.
For those who still need clarification about these terms, we present this article to outline apparent differences in goals vs objectives.
1: Definition of Goals vs Objectives
While searching for the meaning of goals, we come across a result that defines goals as objectives or measurable targets that any individual tries to achieve.
Unfortunately, this definition sets the foundation for confusion between the two words. In reality, goals are “a set of objectives” that a person completes to achieve their planned outcome.
Goals are like the second floor of a building; objectives are the measurable steps of the stairs leading to that floor. To simplify, goals are usually long-term, abstract business plans one makes for themselves or their company.
To make their goals practical and achievable, individuals and organizations must break down these long-term goals into short-term, specific tasks called objectives.
For instance, adopting a healthy lifestyle is a goal. It is abstract and without set time frames. To achieve this goal, a person sets measurable objectives such as eliminating fats from their diet, exercising daily for an hour, or quitting smoking.
2: Sequence of Establishment
People often use goals and objectives interchangeably. In reality, goals and objectives are two elements in a sequence where one precedes the other.
In a series, goals come first and are followed by objectives. Actions are the next step and are based on set objectives. Setting goals is the first step.
Individuals or organizations identify their personal goals or business goals. However, there are no specific metrics or methods of setting goals, nor can they be measured.
Goals may be long-term or medium-term, based on emotions or statistics, and be sudden or gradual. To reach your goal, you will outline a line of action.
Then, you will measure your progress based on the milestones you achieve. Each completed milestone gets you one step closer to your goal.
These little milestones, or specific actions, are the objectives. However, it is essential to note that goals and objectives converge at several points.
Plans are incomplete without objectives, and objectives may be meaningless without goals. Just like intentions are shallow without actions, actions are arbitrary without intentions.
Organizations also identify objectives to measure goals. They use OKRs for setting goals and objectives that lead to the completion of their business goals. As mentioned earlier, OKRs are specific tasks that provide a clear direction for accomplishing goals.
Goals are abstract. You cannot measure goals in a time frame, nor are there any relative metrics to measure your progress. Goals are ideas or thoughts that you have towards yourself or your business.
Since they are just ideas or inspirations, goals have a faint line of action. However, objectives step in to make these dreams or ideas become a reality.
They are the concrete, set, and clear directions that will lead toward the goal. In business terms, objectives are those performance metrics that measure progress toward larger company goals.
For instance, a company sets the ultimate goal of expanding to another country. On the surface, this is a vague, unachievable feat. There is no time frame specified for this plan.
It is also interesting to note that as long as the company owner does not put their thought into measurable action or milestones, the idea will stay where it is without any progress.
To manifest the abstract concept into concrete reality, company owners devise objectives to expand their business. These objectives include analyzing the new site and business opportunities, generating sufficient revenue to grow, and hiring more staff.
These objectives are then assigned specific tasks. Each purpose can have several jobs which are time-bound, measurable, and straightforward.
The company meets its objectives and eventually achieves its goal by completing actions. Organizations stay in sync with their goals and objectives by using goal planners.
These goal planners measure goals seamlessly and keep them updated with their progress. In addition, they have reminders, task prioritization, and other interactive features that help you stay on track with goals and are a great example of objectives and actions that lead you to reach your goals.
4: Time Frame
As mentioned earlier, goals are abstract, long-term plans. Goals are spread over a month, six months, or a year. Sometimes goals are free from a set time frame.
However, to simply understand goals vs objectives, goals are time-bound whereas objectives are relatively short-term. For instance, if you set a goal of getting in shape within a month, your objectives will have a shorter action time than your goal.
Your plans may include cutting carbs, exercising daily, monitoring weight every week, or having a set wake-up and sleeping schedule.
In addition, you can use a day planner to reach your goals, track progress, review tasks, and analyze your direction. Your objectives are set in weeks and days compared to your month-long goal.
Thus, these small milestones assist you in measuring your progress. Just like 24 hours make up a day, short-term, achievable objectives combine to make a long-term goal.
5: Preciseness of Actions
Goals can be ideas, actions, or both. They depend on specific tasks for completion. Objectives bring clarity to ideas. By laying out an action plan, successful people bring clarity to their thoughts.
Goals are generic. They are mere thoughts, ideas, and big plans for the future. On the other hand, objectives bring clarity and specificity to set goals.
Assigning actions to thoughts is like bottling a river in a tumbler. While goals are broad-scope ideas, objectives are narrow-scope, specific, and measurable actions.
The broadness, and almost impossibility of goals, are what make them unique. However, everyone needs a direction to implement these novel ideas. Objectives come to help in this regard.
For example, suppose you wish to win a scholarship for your professional degree at a top-notch university. In that case, your objectives are set in the present.
The long-term goal of a university scholarship becomes precise by dividing it into the short-term purpose of working hard in high school and college.
The preciseness of objectives is better understood by the fact that objectives should be SMART. SMART objectives must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
If objectives do not fulfill the SMART criteria, they are not accomplished. To further understand goals vs objectives, let us look at the Golden Circle concept which is followed by many organizations.
The Golden Circle concept comprises three circles where the innermost is “why,” the center one is “how,” and the outermost is “what.”
When an organization sets a goal, it is broad and blurry. The Golden Circle concept makes the ideas precise by narrowing things down to three fundamental questions.
First, it allows decision-makers to ponder over the objectives of the goal. Companies analyze why they have set their goal, how they must achieve it, and what they will get out of it.
6: Thought Process
The thought process behind outcome-oriented goals is vast. There are no restrictions or constraints. Plans can be driven by emotions, too. Simply put, the primary difference between goals vs objectives is that there are more emotions and thoughts involved in setting goals.
Unlike goals, objectives are more “solid.” They are sound and logical actions that lead to goal completion. Objectives cannot be emotional or vague.
An example of the thought process behind goals is how a business owner decides to overthrow their competitor after a dramatic professional defeat. This idea is driven by emotions.
The desire to acquire the competitor’s enterprise is purely emotional, with no logical or practical analysis or planning behind it. However, motivation and drive let the business owner devise a line of action to achieve their wish.
Business owners strategize, plan, and outline specific objectives over several years. Each pursuit, no matter how small or mundane, is directed toward acquiring the competitor’s company.
Goals depend on actions to manifest themselves into reality. Without effort, goals are mere ideas. On the other hand, objectives do not rely entirely on goals.
For instance, the aim of dedicating an hour to mindfulness may or may not have a goal behind it. Nevertheless, it reaps benefits for those who practice it.
Let us now evaluate the difference between goals vs objectives using an example of meditation. Meditation will not be less effective if there is no set goal behind it.
However, suppose you have a goal of being mentally relaxed and focusing better. In that case, you cannot achieve it without practicing mindfulness.
Therefore, goals depend on objectives for completion. Business goals of better productivity solely depend on practical actions. Employees need to focus on high-impact tasks for better work productivity.
They must track progress and ensure all jobs align with their goals. On the contrary, if a company uses productivity planners to measure objectives as a part of its work culture with no specific achievable outcomes in mind, it will achieve better productivity anyway.
This is because employees are already focused on priority tasks and tracking their progress, thus being more productive.
8: Working Example
One of the best ways of differentiating between goals vs objectives is to look at working examples for each. Although this article mentions examples, an elaborate explanation will help immensely.
In personal life, suppose a lean and weak person decides to increase their body mass and adopt a healthier lifestyle. This very thought, or decision, is this individual’s goal.
However, as it is obvious, this mere decision will not yield desired results. Chances are, this person will not even remember having such a goal in about a week’s time.
This is so because they did not “act” upon their thoughts. This person lays out “what” they need to do to increase their body mass and be healthy.
They must eat enough calories throughout the day, exercise and specifically do the weight-lifting ones, and have a consistent sleep schedule.
The individual will begin seeing the desired results by doing these things for a month. The objectives are all the “things” or “actions” that this person outlined and performed.
When it comes to business goals vs objectives, a company’s goal may be to improve its customer service for better customer satisfaction. On its own, this is an idea with no set of tasks or definite time.
The decision-makers step ahead and set specific objectives to achieve this desired outcome. They aim for a better outcome in three months’ time. Team members may come up with OKRs such as more customer service representatives, royalty programs, etc.
All the ideas and tasks outlined, and the specified time period to achieve better customer service, are all objectives of this business. Provided that all team members of the company work in the set direction, the business will achieve its set “goal” within the mentioned time.
The Bottom Line
The goals vs objectives is an old debate. Unfortunately, several people mistake the two for being the same. In reality, both are different and entail different processes and thoughts.
By understanding these major differences, individuals and organizations can employ them better and reap their benefits. Week Plan understands the importance of objectives and measurable goals for personal and professional success.
This is why we offer diverse planners that cater to individual needs and ensure the best goal setting plans. If you want a complete planner that checks all boxes of features that provide desired outcomes, reach out to us today.
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