OK – generally it goes something like this. I say “Alright, it’s time to do some goal setting for employee evaluations”. At that point the department manager loses all muscle tone, hurls themselves to the floor, and starts to spin in a circle while kicking their feet and flailing their arms, and whining at the top of their lungs “but I don’t wanna do goal setting!”
OK, it’s not quite that bad – but it feels like it.
Generally, nobody looks forward to goal setting. They think it’s hard, that it’s impossible to come up with anything – and they mostly just fall back on plugging in the number of widgets they need produced every period – because it’s easy.
But here’s the thing – setting the number of widgets is a specific type of goal – it’s an action goal. And an action goal without an outcome goal is soul-less; and not likely to ignite your team to greatness, or anything else.
So, have you ever found yourself setting a goal without a clear plan of action? Or perhaps you’ve been so focused on the steps you need to take that you lose sight of the bigger picture? Well, that’s where outcome goals and action goals come into play.
Outcome goals are focused on the final result or state you want to achieve. They answer the question, “What is the end objective?”
For example, imagine you want to improve your customer service. An outcome goal could be to create a fast and efficient customer service experience. It paints a picture of the state you’re aiming to achieve
On the other hand, action goals are all about the steps you’re committed to taking. They answer the question, “What actions will lead to the desired outcome?” An action goal in our customer service example might be to get a feedback score of 7 or higher on customer service calls, or answer calls within 3 rings. You see? The goal highlights the specific actions that are required to achieve your desired outcome – providing accurate and efficient support to your customers.
“…if you want to help your team get to superior performance, you’ve got to strike a balance between outcome goals and action goals. When you combine the two, you’re giving your team the secret sauce to get it done. Outcome goals provide the destination, while action goals outline the journey to get there.“
Now, why is it important to understand the difference between outcome goals and action goals? Well, imagine you only focus on outcome goals. First of all, they can be challenging to measure. And that makes it difficult to gauge your progress. It’s like having a dream without a tangible way to make it a reality. You can’t get there because you don’t have a roadmap.
On the other hand, if you solely prioritize action goals, you might overlook the overall state you’re trying to accomplish. In fact, it’s really easy to set up the wrong action goals entirely – if you aren’t looking at the overall state you are trying to get to. It’s like checking off milestones without a clear understanding of the bigger picture.
So, if you want to help your team get to superior performance, you’ve got to strike a balance between outcome goals and action goals. When you combine the two, you’re giving your team the secret sauce to get it done. Outcome goals provide the destination, while action goals outline the journey to get there.
So, how can you effectively incorporate both types of goals within your team? Well, let’s take a closer look at our customer service example. Your outcome goal is to provide fast and accurate customer service. To support this, you establish action goals such as answering customer service calls within three rings and maintaining a feedback score of 7 or higher.
Each action goal contributes to the desired outcome. Answering calls promptly ensures fast service, while striving for a high feedback score indicates accuracy and customer satisfaction. When you measure these action goals, you gain insight into the progress you’re making towards achieving your outcome goal.
Now, keep in mind, as an entrepreneur leading a team, it’s crucial to communicate both the outcome goals and the action goals. Help your team understand the bigger picture—the desired state or result you’re trying to achieve. That clarity gives them a sense of purpose and aligns their efforts towards a common goal.
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At the same time, it’s equally important to break down the outcome into measurable action goals. These milestones provide your team with tangible steps they can take to contribute to the overall objective. It ensures that each team member understands the actions they need to focus on and how their efforts tie into the desired outcome.
So yes, outcome goals and action goals go hand in hand. They are like two sides of the same coin—both necessary for driving superior performance within your team. Outcome goals provide the vision, while action goals supply the roadmap to get there.
Oh, and by the way, they are sometimes called Goals and milestones, or Outcome goals and Process goals – but don’t be confused, it’s all the same thing. Tomato, tomaato.
So, remember to strike a balance between these two types of goals. Don’t just set outcome goals without actionable steps, because they can be really hard to measure and achieve. And by the same token, don’t get too caught up in the actions without understanding the ultimate state you’re trying to accomplish.
By combining outcome goals and action goals, you can create a powerful framework for success. Clearly communicate the desired outcome to your team and help them understand the purpose behind their actions. Break down the outcome into measurable action goals, ensuring that each team member knows the specific steps they need to take to contribute to the overall objective.