Simple goal setting

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If you already undertake formal strategic and operational planning within your beef production enterprise, then you will already have goals and objectives set for both the short- and long-term.

Alternatively, if you have a less formal planning process, or if you keep plans in your head, then setting goals and objectives is a critical business activity if you want to improve your enterprise.

Setting goals

Setting goals is relatively easy; goals are a general target for medium- to long-range aims, or just a direction in which your beef enterprise might want to follow. An example of a goal might be to diversify your current focus on a cow-calf operation to a trading system.

When setting goals it is important to:

  • begin with an action verb (create, change, increase, etc)
  • followed by a more specific and desired outcome - for example, to create a safer work environment on the property.

The biggest difference between goals and objectives is that goals are not as concrete - they imply a purpose or a direction, rather than objectives which must be measurable. Often to achieve a goal will require several specific objectives to be met.

If you have multiple goals, then you will need to prioritise them. For those goals you think are important enough to proceed with, you will need to ask 'What specific objectives must be undertaken to achieve this goal?'

Make sure you develop goals relating to strategic decisions, tactical decisions and operation decisions (refer to Procedure 2). You can note down your goals for each of these areas below.

Setting objectives

Objectives are basically a description of what needs to be done to achieve a goal. You may need more than one objective for each goal. They are relatively short-term and are the steps you take to achieve your goal. For example, if a goal is to:

  • 'Improve herd reproductive performance'

Then specific objectives might be:

  • 'We will implement an early weaning strategy (all calves weaned off of mothers by 10 months of age) by the first muster of [year].'
  • 'We will implement a program of annually pregnancy testing all first calf heifers by [year]'.

One way to making sure that your objectives are well focussed is to follow the SMART system. That is ensure your objectives are:

  • Specific - be really clear about the action or what is to be done - in the example above, 'early weaning' and 'pregnancy testing' provides the clarity needed for the objective to be specific.
  • Measurable - how much, how many etc are included in the objective - in the example above, 'all first calf heifers' provides the measurable target.
  • Achievable - do you have the time, skills and resources to achieve this objective? How much are you reliant on factors outside your control? The degree to which an objective is achievable is a personal assessment.
  • Realistic - is the objective 'do-able' and will meeting this objective make a significant contribution to the goal? Will it give you the return you are looking for on your investment and time? Again, this is personal assessment, but in the example above, early weaning and/or pregnancy testing should make ‘realistic’ progress towards the goal.
  • Time-bound - be as clear as possible about the time lines - in the example above, 'by the first muster of [year]' provides the clear time line.

Like goals, you will need to clarify the priorities of your various objectives. One way to assist with determining the priorities across objectives is to do a quick analysis of the consequences if the objective is not achieved.