Our Thoughts

The importance of setting the right organizational objectives

Posted by David Manyanza on Oct 3 2012

Too often organizational objectives are incorrectly set in too many strategic plans. It is all too common to see organizational objectives set as achievement of processes. It is not unusual to encounter objectives such as a “certain Policy Developed”, “Production Improved”, or “Staff Training Implemented” to the extent that it is pertinent and important to ask the questions: What are organizational objectives? How can they be set?

Obviously, objectives can be set for different purposes but at the level of an organization objectives must be statements of the level or quantity of results that must be achieved by an organization in a particular period and which address the needs of the beneficiaries of the services provided by the organization. Beneficiaries of services are otherwise called customers. Results must, therefore, be a certain level of service to be delivered to customers in a particular period. As such organizational objectives are not only outward looking in nature but are also achievements that benefit people outside the organization. Their benefits to customers must be clear and real.

For example an objective of the Ministry of Education might be, “All Children of School Going-age Attend School by 2014.” The customers here are children who will benefit from the service of educational opportunities provided by the Ministry; they will be able to go to school. Similarly, preparing a policy document cannot be an objective of any Ministry but achieving what the policy intends to achieve is. If the policy, for example, intends to remove barriers of equal opportunity for girls in education then the objective might be, “Girls’ School Attendance at All Levels is at Least Equal to that of Boys by 2016.” This is what the policy seeks to achieve. Clearly one can see the benefits of the policy to girls. The policy will point to various strategies to be implemented in order to achieve the expected results.

In order to set correct organizational objectives it is necessary to know what services the organization provides and to whom. This understanding enables one to envision the level of service an organization will provide, under given circumstances, in a given period of time. It is important to recognize that in the first place the organization exists to provide service to people outside itself. Although employees benefit from the organization’s existence, and in turn ensure that it continues to thrive by providing the right service, the organization’s primary reason for its existence is service provision to its customers.

Since an objective is a statement of results, in the form of service, to be delivered to customers in a particular period, it should be possible to measure such results or service. Not being able to measure results is not only unacceptable as one would not be able to know how well an organization is doing, but it is also a recognition of the organization’s wasteful spending that should be avoided. Therefore, any talk about not being able to measure objectives is simply not true. It is possible that some results are more difficult than others to detect and discern the right measurement thus giving the false impression that they may not be measurable.

If an organization does not get its objectives right particularly at the time of strategic planning it could mean that for the entire period of implementing the strategic plan, such an organization could be working without a clear focus on the benefits it will deliver to its customers. In all likelihood, such an organization, even if it works efficiently, will at best exert the least impact from its results. Organizations are more effective from doing the right things and not so much from doing things right.

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