I’m not sure he meant to be giving business advice when Louis Carol wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, but this exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat is nonetheless instructive.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—“ said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
The cat has a point. It seems that most important thing about getting where you want to be is knowing where you want to be. Without that, tactics are trivia. Knowing where you are going, in business is achieved by setting quality goals and laying out the path to achieving them. But, how do you know if you are setting quality goals, or if you, like Alice are just trying to get somewhere? Here are a few questions you can ask to find out.
Is it Specific?
Just like “somewhere” is not a destination, poorly defined business goals are not quality goals. “Improve customer satisfaction” is a somewhere goal. “Leverage new support ticketing solution to Increase NPS scores by 5 points," is a specific “where are you going?” goal.
Can it be Measured?
In order to determine if you’ve reached your destination, you have to know where you are. If your goals can’t be measured, you are judging success in the dark. You’ll never know if you have, “increased employee satisfaction.” But, you will absolutely know if you have reduced employee churn by 10%.
Is it Possible?
When trying to set quality goals, it is important to consider that they be both realistic and achievable with the resources you are willing to expend to get it done. Certainly goals can be difficult and require a stretch, but setting impossible ones only sets your team up for failure and dissatisfaction.
What’s the Time Frame?
Timing is an important part of setting quality goals for a couple of reasons. First, the time frame for goal achievement should be stated so that everyone knows not only where they are going, but when they will get there. Next, the time should not be so far in the distance that it is too hard to internalize. Most companies find quarterly goals to be the most effective.
With or without setting quality goals, you’re sure to get somewhere. If you’d prefer to arrive at a specific point on the map, it pays to devote the time and energy to plotting out exactly where it should be. George Harrison summed up the Cheshire Cat’s wisdom in his song Any Road, “And if you don't know where you're going, Any road will take you there.”