“If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results” — George S. Patton.

Most strategy plans commit a cardinal sin — they specify solutions (use technology X, partner with company Y, launch country Z) rather than goals. Any modern army general will tell you this is backwards — you give the troops objectives and let them figure out ways to accomplish them (the principle of Mission Command). This method is more empowering, requires less managerial overhead and is far more robust — solutions may come and go based on the situation in the field, but the objectives stay the same.

Goals embody this principle — they describe the company strategy in terms of desired outcomes: where we want to be, by when, and how will we know that we got there. Whenever anyone in the org is is wondering “why are we doing this project?” a goal should give the answer. I became most familiar with goals at Google where every quarter we meticulously spelled out our goals in the form of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). Some believe that OKRs are one of the reasons for Google’s was so successful.

Goals are typically set for an horizon of one or more years — this is where we want to encourage long-term thinking. They are defined at the beginning of the year and evaluated and adjusted every quarter — we don’t want to pursue stale goals.

  • Goals rather than solutions and vague strategy statements.

In the book The Art of Action by Stephen Bungay, he says, “Keep it simple. Don’t tell people what to do and how to do it. Instead, be as clear as you can about your intentions. Say what you want people to achieve and, above all, tell them why. Then ask them to tell you what they are going to do as a result.”