Three Questions to Ask When Selecting Strategic Objectives

As a leader, one of your most critical responsibilities is setting the strategic direction for your team or organization. The objectives you choose to pursue will shape how resources are allocated, which initiatives take priority, and how success is measured.

With so much riding on these high-stakes decisions, it is essential to approach the selection of strategic objectives with intentionality. Here are three key questions to ask as you evaluate potential objectives:

1. Does this objective align with our core purpose and values?

Strategic objectives that are misaligned with your organization’s core purpose and values are doomed to fail or, at best, limp along with lukewarm support. Your stated objectives must be grounded in a clear “why” that resonates with stakeholders at all levels.

Does the potential objective allow you to live out your organization’s defining principles? Does it create value that is consistent with your mission and vision? If pursuing this objective would require compromising your core values, it’s likely not the right strategic priority.

Alignment around purpose and values builds buy-in, inspires discretionary effort, and ensures that all hands are pulling in a unified direction as you work toward your goals.

2. Is this objective specific, measurable, and time-bound?

Vague aspirations make for poor strategic objectives. As you consider potential priorities, apply the standard of specificity to determine if an objective is concrete enough to guide meaningful action and progress tracking.

A specific objective clearly defines the “what” that needs to be accomplished, as well as quantifiable metrics and target dates for completion. Measurable objectives with defined parameters provide clarity that focuses efforts and allows teams to course-correct when necessary.

Avoid objectives that are open-ended, subjective, or moving targets. The more precise you can be in articulating the intended outcome and success criteria, the better positioned your organization will be to achieve it.

3. Do we have the resources and capabilities to achieve this?

Even objectives that are philosophically aligned and well-defined can fall flat if your organization lacks the resources and core capabilities required to execute on them. Before formalizing a strategic priority, realistically assess whether you have the human capital, financial means, technological infrastructure, and critical competencies to bring it to fruition.

If there are gaps in your current capabilities, can they be reasonably closed through upskilling, strategic hiring, or securing additional funding? If the gaps are too wide, it may be wiser to table that objective until you’ve built up the requisite resources and capabilities.

Conversely, choosing objectives that leverage your unique strengths as an organization increases your probability of success. Play to your strengths when selecting strategic priorities.

The strategic objectives you select as a leader will be powerful determinants of your team’s focus, motivation, and shared sense of purpose. By asking these three critical questions, you can increase confidence that your objectives will be aligned, actionable, and achievable – paving the way for your efforts to become realized successes.

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