Managing Teams, Strategy

Are You Over-Stretching?

Do you love goal setting?  We sure do, there’s nothing like getting you and your team focused on a common goal with a deadline to really see implementation in businesses.

What about really challenging goals?  Often called a ‘stretch goal’ or ‘BHAG’ (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) these are even more challenging that the usual goals we set ourselves and can fall in either of these categories:

Extremely difficult:

Familiar tasks that goes way beyond current capabilities.

e.g. Southwest Airlines goal for 10-minute turnaround times when the industry standard was nearing one hour.

Extremely novel:

New tasks and approaches are required to reach the goal that aren’t currently part of the businesses current capabilities.

We’ve seen huge goals publicly committed to by organisations over the years, often with them not meeting them and the business folding – so how can you ensure your stretch goals are challenging but appropriate?

Recent Performance:

Just like a sporting team, recent wins or loses influences business staff morale.

If the team or business has just met an important benchmark, or successfully launched a new product, confidence is high.  This means team members are optimistic, have a great attitude and will be flexible and eager to take on the next challenge.  However, a team that has been struggling to meet standards, know the business isn’t doing well are likely to see stretch goals as threats to their survival at the business and be fearful and defensive of their actions.

Slack Resources:

Stretch goals require risk, effort and resources.  If you’re going to tackle an extremely novel or difficult task you’re going to need people, equipment, knowledge, experience and of course money.  Often organisations need to run experiments, that aren’t always successful – a buffer of resources means that failure is looked at as a ‘lesson’ as there is greater organizational resilience.



Stretch goal not right for your business right now?  Here are some other ways you can move forward

(Based on HBR article ‘The Stretch Goal Paradox’ Sitkin et al Jan/Feb 2017)

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