Goal Setting and Problem Setting


There’s no point setting vague goals that don’t achieve anything specific. Research by the creators of goal setting theory, Locke & Latham, found that in 90% of studies conducted, specific and challenging goals lead to higher performance than when people were set either easy goals, “do your best” goals or no goals at all. It’s important for both you and your employees to have clear and established aims, to avoid potentially setting goals so broad that they are overwhelming and therefore too difficult to set into action.


Once you have a specific goal pinned down, it’s important to be able to measure the success or completion of the goal. This doesn’t have to be in the traditional sense, like on a numeric scale or a statistic, it just has to be measurable in some sense, so that it is clear when you have reached or are close to reaching your goal. This is a great way to keep track of progress in the workplace, for both you as a manager and your team members: if the goal is to reach a certain number of followers on Twitter, for example, having a measurable goal in the form of a number is a sure-fire way of measuring and independently keeping track of progress.


A SMART goal must be assignable to someone be it yourself, your team, or individual team members. If you decide you want to achieve something as a team it is important that someone is responsible for tracking progress, implementing action steps and keeping the team motivated towards reaching this goal.


It is essential that any goals set for teams or individuals are relevant to company-wide aims. Of course, goal-completion is important and having goals met or worked towards is the overall idea when setting them, but this is only really beneficial when the goals are productive in the workplace environment and will contribute to company success in some way. As a manager, it is particularly important that you help your employees link their goals back to the wider team and company-wide goals. One of the best ways to motivate your employees is to make sure they know how their work is contributing to the bigger picture.


Goals must be time-related. It’s not productive to set a deadline too far in the future for a simple task, or an unrealistically short deadline for something complex and time-consuming. This common pitfall can be incredibly demotivating for staff. They’re either left with an abundance of time in which they are not pushing themselves, or left feeling stressed and demotivated when they fail to complete goals in the time-frame provided. The same applies in a management position. Ensure that, whether goals are for yourself, or involve others, the appropriate time frame is provided so that neither you or your team members are left feeling discouraged.

All small businesses have problems that must be solved in order to improve the productivity and profitability for the business. In fact, in some businesses, the entire business model may be centered on solving problems for customers or clients. Effectively solving problems for a business involves a set number of steps, one of which is setting goals. Keeping goals in mind when solving problems can be an effective way to stay on track and accomplish the wanted end result.

Identifying Problems

In order to solve a business problem, the problem must first be identified. While this seems like an obvious step, many businesses work very hard only to end up with the wrong result. This is often the result of not identifying the true problem at hand. If sales have dropped off for the business, it may be due to the type of product sold. However, if the business sees the problem as the sales staff, the company’s goals will be completely different and will not address the real problem.

Developing SMART Goals

When goals are developed to solve problems, the goals should follow the SMART system: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. In order for goals to be effective in the small business, all five attributes must be present within the goals that are set. Problems can only be effectively addressed if the proper goals are set by using the SMART system of goal development. When developing goals, organizations should create a goal list on paper to show their commitment to solving the goals.

Developing an Action Plan

For every goal that the business sets to address an issue, there should be a step-by-step action plan in place that accompanies that goal. This action plan informs those who are solving the problem of exactly what is expected of them. The action plan outline provides great detail to the employee so that the problem may be solved by following the plan. As with goals, the action plan should also be written out and specific to the goal.

Alternate Plans

When goals are set for complex problems in the business, it is important to always have an alternate set of goals. The goals of the business will constantly change to meet and adapt to the needs of the business. These goals serve as a plan B for the business to use in case the first goals do not yield the desired results.


Goal-setting and problem-solving are continual tasks within any business. It is important that the business realize that problems are an everyday part of the business and do not spell disaster. Small businesses should see problems as opportunities to improve the business. Setting goals to address issues is a team effort that should be led by the organization’s management and include all necessary people within the organization.

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