I noticed this very plan-as-you-go post by Guy Kawasaki on the American Express Open Forum. What I like about it, particularly, is where Guy says “set goals” and then lists these four desirable qualities of goals:

Measurable. If a goal isn’t measurable, its unlikely you’ll achieve it. For a startup, quantifiable goals are things like shipping deadlines, downloads, and sales volume. The old line “What gets measured gets done” is true. This also has ramifications for the number of goals, because you can’t (and shouldn’t) measure everything. Three to five goals measured on a weekly basis are plenty.

Achievable. Take your conservative forecasts for these goals and multiply them by 10 percent; then use that as your goal. For example, if you think you’ll easily sell a million units in the first year, set your goal at 100,000 units. There is nothing more demoralizing than setting a conservative goal and falling short; instead take 10 percent of your forecast, make this your goal, and blow it away. You might think that such a practice will lead to underachieving organizations, because they aren’t being challenged. Yeah, well, check back with me after you don’t sell a million widgets.

Relevant. A good goal is relevant. If you’re a software company, it’s the number of downloads of your demo version. It’s not your ranking in Alexa, so telling the company to focus on getting into the top 50,000 sites in the world in terms of traffic is not nearly as relevant as 10,000 downloads per month.

Rathole resistant. A goal can be measurable, achievable, and relevant and still send you down a rathole. Let’s say you’ve created a content website. Your measurable, achievable, and relevant goal is to sign up 100,000 registered users in the first ninety days. So far, so good. But what if you focus on this body count without regard to the stickiness of the site? So now you’ve gotten 100,000 people to register, but they visit once and never return. That’s a rathole. Ensure that your goal encompasses all the factors that will make your organization viable.

What I like about this, as you might guess, is that it’s a very close match to what I’m saying here, in this site, and in the Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan book. Goals are about business, getting things done, and they do you no good unless you follow up on results and manage accordingly.

Tim Berry
President and Founder
Palo Alto Software

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.