How Startups Turn Goals Into Actions

Here’s a simple tool I’ve been using for years to get results

Joe Procopio

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Look, any experienced CEO, advisor, or investor will tell you, “Set your goals and hit your goals.” And that’s great. I’m all for goals. And you should set them. Plenty of them.

But then what?

The best startup leaders have a portfolio of goals — from three-year plans to documented lists of annual, quarterly, monthly, even weekly goals, updated as they evolve from cycle to cycle.

Regardless of the actual content of the goals, if at the end of the day leadership is just telling the team to work harder to keep the doors open, it’s only going to encourage the inevitable closing of those doors — and crush spirits as they swing shut.

For goals to actually matter, to the company and to employees, they must be broken down into actionable steps that everyone understands and whose purpose in furthering the company’s mission is clear.

So how do you get there?

Distilling Goals Into Action Items Is a Critical Leadership Function

I’ve been involved with too many startups who document their goals, frame them, post them online, make sure everyone can repeat them — and then nobody ever thinks about them again.

Whether the goal is a revenue number to hit or a new market to enter or a new line of business to launch— too often the result is the same. Every single employee applauds them and then goes back to exactly what they were doing every day without really understanding whether their daily effort aligns with any of those shiny new goals.

I don’t have to tell you what happens next. The end of the quarter sneaks up on everyone and there’s that last minute rush to do whatever is necessary to come as close to that number/launch/sale as possible, because the chances of actually hitting the goal died the day after it was communicated.

Defining the Right Tasks to Achieve Goals

Years ago, a fellow founder and I were talking about startup culture and productivity, and he said something that has stuck with me ever since:

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com