Good objective, bad objective

How to set goals that build alignment and accountability

Dan Pupius
Jan 25, 2019 · 3 min read

Writing a good objective is hard. It requires capturing a huge amount of knowledge and context into a short phrase. Getting it wrong causes confusion, at best. At worst it can lead to projects going off track, unnecessary work, and important things being dropped.

Whether you are using OKRs, Headlining, or Agile Epics, a well-written objective communicates what your team is doing and why, builds alignment within and across teams, empowers autonomy, and builds accountability.

Here are some tips on writing objectives.

What and why, not how

But it is not overly prescriptive. Bad objectives read more like a to-do or a task. They lose track of the underlying reason for the objective. If the world changes or new information emerges, the final solution/approach may need to change. In particularly bad cases, it may be possible to complete the objective without actually accomplishing the original intent.

Bad: Ship a new version of the blog template

Good: Our blog is accessible for disabled readers and scores 100 on Lighthouse audits

Right-sizing

When writing an objective think about how it will guide your actions. Does it provide enough focus to narrow the scope of what you might do? Or are there things that you want to do that aren’t captured? Perhaps it should really be two objectives.

Bad: Ensure success at enterprise customers

Good: Triple number of active teams per enterprise account

Are we there yet?

Bad: Increase sales leads

Good: Demos per week consistently exceeds five per rep

Who says?

Bad: Frontend services are stable

Good: Externally measured uptime exceeds 99.99%

Cart before the horse

We’re often building systems and processes at the same time as solving a problem. So watch out for situations where you simply aren’t ready for an objective that would otherwise be reasonable.

Bad: Hire six new engineers a quarter

Good: All engineers have been trained on new hiring rubric and process


Objective writing is an art, not a science. I hope these guidelines are helpful.

The main thing to keep in mind is that you are communicating to multiple audiences: your team, your manager, your company, and your future self.

Think about what you want to accomplish, then put yourself in their shoes and imagine how they might misinterpret what you’ve written. Remember, these aren’t written in stone. As you are presenting and discussing your plans, sense and react, take time to refine and clarify your objectives.

Of course, running a good goal setting process is more than just writing the description. Range makes it easy to see the status of team objectives and helps you track all the work that contributes to your goal. And if your teams are struggling to identify and track good objectives, our friends at Epic Teams have a great coaching program that is worth checking out.


Originally published on the Range Blog at www.range.co/blog.

Range

Stories and lessons from your friends at Range Labs.

Dan Pupius

Written by

Englishman in California. Father, engineer, photographer. Recovering adrenaline junky. Founder @ www.range.co. Previously: Medium, Google.

Range

Range

Stories and lessons from your friends at Range Labs. We're exploring how software can cultivate healthy, inclusive, and creative organizations.

Dan Pupius

Written by

Englishman in California. Father, engineer, photographer. Recovering adrenaline junky. Founder @ www.range.co. Previously: Medium, Google.

Range

Range

Stories and lessons from your friends at Range Labs. We're exploring how software can cultivate healthy, inclusive, and creative organizations.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store