Executive Education

Your Core Vision and Values Should Always Guide Your Goals

When it comes to setting goals, executives are fond of tapping into classic management frameworks, such as Peter Drucker’s SMART goals, Intel and Google’s OKRs (objectives and key results) or psychologist David Van Rooy’s three-step BSQ method (Think Big, Act Small, Move Quick). However, in our experience of helping companies with their strategic planning, we’ve often found that these traditional frameworks focus only on initiatives that achieve results. They rarely incorporate the company’s core vision or purpose. Goal setting that only aims to hit specific revenue numbers or check to-do boxes often results in executives and employees losing sight of the bigger picture.

For businesses in which creativity and innovation are essential to growth, integrating vision and values into the goal-setting process is essential in order for companies to stay focused and more efficiently align their teams and operations. Instead of using traditional goal frameworks, we’ve developed a new model that puts vision and values at the forefront.

Identifying your company’s core vision and values

The first step in this framework, if companies haven’t done so already, is to define the core vision and values. A company’s vision is the enduring goal that defines your main purpose as a business and serves as your “guiding star on the horizon.” It is what David Packard of Hewlett-Packard describes as “a goal forever pursued, but never reached.” A company’s core values are the lasting principles that define what your business stands for. They are the bedrock upon which your entire company runs, from hiring and management to strategy and operations. They drive your company culture and largely define how you are perceived by customers and competitors.

For example, at Creative Business Inc., we’ve set our vision to be known as the “gold standard” of business advisory firms. As times change, so too will the standards for our industry, which means that we will have to continuously evolve to fulfill our vision.

When defining your company’s values, ask yourself: What core values do you bring to your work and hold so fundamental that you would have them regardless of whether they are rewarded? What values would you keep even if you were to switch organizations? And, most importantly, would these values still be valid 100 years from now?

Long term and short term: Setting the strategic plan and initiatives

Once you have established the vision and values that will serve as your foundation, you are ready to set the strategic plan for your company, which is a long-term outlook defined by several ambitious yet measurable goals. Some examples:

  • We want to reach one million happy customers over the next 15 years.
  • We want to be the number one rated retailer in our industry by 2025 for product selection and customer service.
  • We want to achieve 50 percent market share in the U.S. within a decade.

From there, you’ll want to develop a set of short-term initiatives with management and relevant members of your team. These goals and projects will help you move closer to achieving your long-term strategic plan. They encompass all the activities you’ll want to undertake in the current year. Some examples:

  • Run a splashy social media marketing campaign to attract new buyers to our website.
  • Conduct outreach to customers to encourage them to leave online reviews for our products and services.
  • Open five new locations in the western U.S. this year.

No matter how you define your strategic plan and initiatives, they should always reflect your core vision and align with your company values. This helps teams to not only understand what they must accomplish, but also why they are doing it. By setting goals within this framework, business leaders will encourage their teams to infuse more purpose into their work, resulting in employees taking ownership in setting and achieving goals.

Building accountability into your plan

Goals should never be seen as a “set it and forget it” activity. Accountability is the next crucial step in building a successful strategic plan. Within the plan, you’ll want to build in checkpoints to track progress. Some tips:

  • Define milestones for strategic initiatives.How long is the timeline for achieving your initiative? What major milestones and deadlines do you need to hit along the way? Don’t set goals without defined milestones and concrete timeframes.
  • Set periodic goal checkups to track and compare progress between teams. One mistake that companies often make is allowing individuals or teams to work in silos, which discourages open communication and transparency. Regular weekly or monthly meetings with the whole team, or even just the department heads, will help to keep everyone oriented toward the same core vision. When conducted in a respectful environment, it allows for employees to comfortably celebrate successes and learn from failures.
  • Use your core values as an evaluation metric.Team checkups are a great time to reiterate your core values within the company. By acknowledging and rewarding those employees that not only hit their targets, but also did so while upholding the values of the company, you will reinforce what’s important and encourage others to follow suit.
  • Last but not least, evaluate and iterate. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. During your periodic checkups, you might find that certain initiatives aren’t working, or that outside forces may require a change of strategic goals. When that happens, the tendency for many businesses is to react rashly. Often, they will push for something newer, bigger or faster without taking the time to reflect on the bigger picture. Don’t fall into the trap of reacting too quickly if something isn’t working. Take the time to slow down and think it through. Do an honest evaluation of your results and iterate your strategic plan, as needed, while keeping changes aligned with your core vision and values. Companies that consistently change strategic direction without referring back to their vision and values often find themselves straying from their purpose, which results in work becoming more chaotic and communication breaking down more frequently.

Ultimately, your company’s vision and values should serve as a compass, consistently guiding you back toward your goals. From the time when you set the initial roadmap, to the times when you may get lost and need to double back, your core vision and values should always be there, guiding the company back in the right direction.

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Jeanne Hardy
Jeanne Hardy is the founder and CEO of Creative Business, Inc., a leading business advisory firm in New York.