Research teaches us that people are more successful when they set goals. That’s why we religiously make new year’s resolutions; despite the fact that a resolution is different than a goal. Most resolutions fail in less than a month. Goals, unlike resolutions, are specific and measurable, and we target our achievement within a specific time frame.
In addition, goals fit within three categories: strategic, tactical, and operational. As new product development (NPD) managers and innovation practitioners, our goals – both professional and personal – must straddle the three categories to ensure success and creativity in building new knowledge. We’ll next discuss what these three types of goals are and how you can apply them to renew your joy in practicing innovation.
Strategy is the overarching mission and vision of a firm. It encompasses the why we are in business and the values or characteristics we apply to differentiate our business from competitors. As has been said, it is far easier to compose a strategy statement than to execute the strategy. That’s were goals come in.
Strategic goals, therefore, are the highest-level objectives we have. They are visionary yet practical at the same time. Achieving our strategy cannot be accomplished with the flip of a switch so we must parse our overall vision into smaller chunks, or goals, because strategy is also long-term.
For example, a company may wish to grow by accessing the South American market. That is both visionary and practical since economic data demonstrates an untapped market for products and services in this region. However, implementing this strategy requires more thought and consideration than simply opening a pop-up store in Asunción (the capital of Paraguay). Strategic growth goals for the initiative may include the following.
- Complete a consumer market research study in Paraguay.
- Evaluate competitive product solutions in place today.
- Coordinate Spanish-speaking resources within the company.
- Pilot test brands and packaging.
- Conduct pricing studies.
- Create technology and product roadmaps.
Of course, a detailed NPD project would follow the innovation strategy, but high-level strategic goals will frame the effort into specific deliverables. Steps taken to meet significant milestones are also steps along the strategic journey.
Tactics are shorter range than strategies and often involve previously tested market approaches. Strategic goals should be translated into tactical objectives that are clear, concise, and measurable. Each tactical goal supports an overall strategic thrust.
So, for example, if we focus on the strategic goal of growth in South America for our fictional company, we know that we need to gather customer insights. Some tactical goals to support this strategic objective are:
- Identify target customers by demographic categories,
- Gather ethnographic data for the product within at least three different regions,
- Conduct product solution focus groups in at least three different regions, and
- Define customer personas for future design thinking and NPD work.
Tactical goals are supported by specific action steps, which we call organizational goals. Some operational goals are necessary in the short-term to maintain manufacturing, distribution, or functional arenas. Whereas strategic goals might take years to achieve and tactical goals are completed in weeks or months, operational goals are often day-to-day achievements. Operational goals directly support specific tactics and are the heart of successful innovation implementation. It is the little things that add up to overall success.
Continuing our example, then, some operational goals follow to support a tactical objective of holding a focus group to understand customer solutions.
- Locate and rent an appropriate facility,
- Recruit 12 potential customers,
- Establish confidentiality agreements,
- Prepare customer feedback checklists, and
- Record and translate the focus group session(s).
Thus, operational goals get at the nitty-gritty details required to meet the tactical objectives, while tactics ultimately support the strategic goals. Each action is necessary, in its own time and with its own scope, to achieve the corporate mission.
How to Implement Goal-Setting
Setting goals is an exercise in strategic thinking since we first must understand the overall mission and vision. Brainstorming is a common technique to elicit both strategic and tactical goals. You will want to use a cross-functional team to establish tactical and organizational goals as the people that do the work will have the most experience knowing how to implement tasks and activities to support specific objectives.
In our Life Design Master Mind and Innovation Master Mind groups, we discuss goal-setting from these three perspectives. An easy way to ensure you are balancing life across the work, health, play, and love arenas is to assign goal categories to your work lists. For instance, I place an “S”, “T”, or “O” by each of my daily “To Do” list items. Bookkeeping gets an “O” because it’s a required activity to keep my business running but it is not a high-level mission-critical activity. Printing handouts for a speaking engagement is assigned a “T” since the handout includes thought leadership content and my marketing information. This will support my strategic goal of helping others become proficient at converting ideas into commercial reality through an integrated innovation ecosystem.
To Learn More
To learn more about setting goals that will help you achieve your strategic vision, please join us in Life Design Master Mind (LDMM), Innovation Master Mind (IMM), or New Product Development Professional (NPDP) certification. LDMM is designed for your personal growth by applying design thinking tools to finding the next step in life. IMM is a 6-month peer coaching group that allows you to extend your NPD knowledge beyond NPDP certification and to collaborate with other CIOs and innovation managers. You will realize improved efficiency and growth from LDMM, IMM, or through NPDP certification which entails a deep dive into strategy and NPD processes, including design thinking. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 281-280-8717. At Simple-PDH.com where we want to help you gain and maintain your professional certifications. You can study, learn, and earn – it’s simple!
Speaking on Design Thinking
- 7 September 2018 at Texas Association of Change Management Professionals Conference
Study. Learn. Earn. Simple.
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