Goals vs objectives
Most often than not, we confuse the difference between goals and objectives as they both describe desired outcomes and results that you as an individual or your team or your company wants to achieve. Though the terms goals and objectives are most times used interchangeably, they have major differences and essential implications. When used in a marketing context, it’s easy to misinterpret and difficult to differentiate between the terms goals and objectives.
Though they both describe desired outcomes and results that you hope, desire or want to achieve, what distinguishes between goals and objectives is the difference in the timeframe, their level of concreteness, the way they are measured, and their effectiveness.
Though goals and objectives are very different terms and serve very different purposes, they both are very crucial in the execution of a plan. One is your ideal future, while the other is a set of stepping stones toward achieving success.
It has also been stated that goals with no objectives can never be achieved, also objectives with no goals will get you nowhere near where you want to be. This shows that though the two concepts are separate they still are related.
What then are goals and objectives?
A goal is a concise statement of a desired outcome to be achieved over a long period of time. It is a broad statement which focuses on the desired results and does not necessarily state the methods to be used to get the intended outcome.
Basically, Goals are the state of affairs that a plan is intended to achieve. They are desired outcomes that give a description of a vision for the future. They are usually long term, broad aspirations that serve as a driving force to everything one does. They are intended to create a big picture.
Setting goals is a very important step in every aspect of any organization or in an individual’s life, whether personal affairs, in business planning, relationships or education. This is because Goal setting helps individuals and organizations to motivate themselves towards a destination or an achievement. Setting clear and compelling goals give direction to your efforts, help you set your priorities, increase your conviction in achievement, help you reach your full potential and motivate you to act.
For example, everyone of us in our childhood days had what we wanted to become or be like in the future and we strived to achieve it. That particular point where we see ourselves at a particular point in time is what a goal is.
Objectives on the other hand, are specific, measurable actions each individual must take to achieve the overall goal or desired outcome. Objectives are targets that need to be achieved within a smaller time frame, to reach a certain goal. They describe all activities involved in achieving a goal.
Objectives are made with time frames to achieve tangible results. Basically, objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. Planning objectives for a business or individual allows you, to measure your progress, help you understand what is expected from you, offer a sense of achievement, help in making difficult decisions and confirm your confidence in the strategy
Objectives can simply be referred to as the aim or target which you want to achieve within a limited period of time. They are the milestones that help you to reach your goal. That is, It is a step to reach a particular point. Which is why they are also referred to as sub goals.
In business, an objective can be referred to as the specific steps a company will take to achieve a desired result. The result is the goal. Hence the term ‘goals and objectives.’ In other words, your goal is what you want to become or achieve, while your objective is how you plan to get there or achieve it.
A business’ goal is more general and may not specify when things will happen. Objectives, on the other hand, are specific and tell you what the company will do to reach its goal. For instance, a business’ primary aim is to add value, which in the private sector involves making profit. Strategic objectives or aims may include brand building, market leadership, expansion, or gaining a specific share of the market.
Another instance is, if a company is losing money, its objectives may include laying off staff and closing down some branches.
Objectives are easily measured when the target is achieved. An instance is a firm aiming to increase its sales by 50% in the next three months. In this case, when the firm hits the target it can be measured through the sales figure.
What are those dissimilarities or characteristics that sets them apart?
While goals are the overall destination or outcomes intended to be achieved by an individual or an organization, objectives are the specific and exact actions and measurable steps that are to be taken to achieve a goal. That is, Goals describe a vision for the future (destination) while Objectives give and describe practical steps that are to be taken to reach the said destination.
Unlike goals which are general statements that are ambiguous and difficult to measure, objectives are specific and precise actions that are time bound (that is, they have deadlines). An Example is, I need to buy a car (goal) , I need to save up to buy a car by the end of the month (objective).
Most times, goals are intangible and cannot be measured (that is, how much distance has been covered till now, while chasing your goal and how much more is left to be achieved), whereas objectives are tangible targets which make them measureable (that is, objectives can be evaluated). An example is, improving customer services (goal), improving customer service by reducing wait time significantly and ensuring timely delivery of services.
Also, goals usually take longer to achieve than objectives. That is, goals are long term and have a long time frame, usually years, while objectives are precise targets set for a short term which is usually within a year. That is, when it comes to time limit, it is difficult to determine correctly how much time it will take a person or an organization to achieve a goal, but objectives can be time bound, in essence, they can be attained in a given period of time.
In terms of scope, goals are broad aspirations and are large in size (that is, the big picture) unlike objectives which are narrow in scope and are smaller pieces or chunks of a whole. That’s, objectives are what is gotten when a goal is broken down into tangible pieces.
Another different thing that sets goals apart from objectives is that, goals are the result that is, a primary outcome, objective on the other hand is a stepping stone for achieving the outcome or result (goal).
Also, while goals are based on ideas (which is why it is sometimes referred to as dreams), objectives are facts based. Goals can also be seen as abstract, unlike objectives which are concrete.
The differences between goals and objectives in essence are, goals are abstract ideas, goals are broad in nature, they are valuable for setting a general vision, they are difficult to measure, they take longer time to achieve and goals are end results. While objectives on the other hand, are narrow in scope, they are specific steps taken towards achieving an end result, they are usually associated with deadlines and time frame, they are means to an end and they are very easy to measure.
Despite all of these differences, goals and objectives remain inseparable because, Setting goals without designing measurable objectives will most likely lead to goals that are never actually achieved. This is because goals can seem impossible or overwhelming when they are not broken down into measurable tasks known as objectives. Also, creating objectives without a broad goal or target lacks meaning. Hence, While goals create a vision with a wide range, objectives focus on the individual, achievable outcomes. Objectives are the concrete deliverables that make the goal come to life. Progress towards them helps measure advancement to reaching the larger end goal.
Whether you are self-employed, have a small business or are part of a large organization, setting goals that are supported with precise objectives is very essential to truly succeed in life, as they can help you move forward in life. Goals and objectives also give you a roadmap to follow and are a great way to hold ourselves accountable, even if you fail. Setting goals and working to achieve them by assigning objectives help you define what you truly want in life.
They are also helpful in helping you prioritize things. If you choose to simply wander through life, without a goal or a plan, that is most certainly your choice. However, setting goals and mapping out ways to achieve these goals can help us live the life we truly want to live.