Objectives are the most critical component of the strategic plan, as they answer the questions, “How much? By when?” They are what drive strategy development.
Objectives are quantitative in nature. In fact, objectives are the only quantifiable elements of the strategic plan. Goals, strategies, and tactics are all qualitative and describe how things get done, but not how much will be accomplished. Because objectives define how much will be achieved and by when, as a rule, objectives need to be measurable and quantifiable.
Measurable means that the objective can be measured using a gauge, such as time (time to complete an event), count (number of units), dollars (cost per unit), rate (number of defects s per 100 units), or some similar unit. Quantifiable means that the objective has some level of quantity that can change over time.
To keep your objectives on track, a good rule of thumb is that every objective should begin with the word “increase” or “decrease.” After all, objectives define how much improvement will take place, and that improvement is either in the form of increasing a statistic (volume) or decreasing a statistic (defects). If you are simply trying to maintain a statistic, it doesn’t belong in the strategic plan; it is better suited as a key performance indicator. It is important that your objectives meet these definitions, so that things that are really strategies or tactics don’t end up as objectives.
For instance, is the opening of a new facility an objective? No. While the progress of the construction project is measurable, it is not quantifiable. Your new facility is a strategy designed to achieve an objective; in this case, most likely an increase in volume.
In addition, don’t confuse an objective with a key performance indicator. By definition, an objective is something you are trying to achieve, either by increasing the measure (physician office visits, for example) or decreasing the measure (customer attrition rate for a services company). If you are simply trying to maintain a measure for something you have already accomplished, then it should be moved to your list of key performance indicators. If you are not trying to increase or decrease the metric, then, by definition, it is not an objective.
- Be known as the safest hospital in America
- Decrease medications error rate
- Decrease patient falls rate
- Increase employee hand washing rate
- Be the dominant provider of services in our market
- Increase market share in primary service area
- Decrease number of product returns
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Be a national leader in graduation statistics
- Increase student job placement rate
- Decrease student attrition rate
- Increase student graduating grade point average