Strategic Insights to Inspire your Journey

How to Discern Operational Targets from Strategic Objectives.

If it is the start of a new year, it is goal setting time. 

If you are like most, you reviewed how well you performed against last year’s goals and then updated this year’s objectives with incremental adjustments and made a renewed commitment to keep them top of mind throughout the year. 

Got that the job done, right?  

Ah, no, at least not if you intended to set strategic goals for the new year.

A critical step in setting strategic goals for yourself or your team is to understand the difference between operational targets and strategic objectives.

An operational target is a transactional or activity with a short-term focus. By short-term, I mean the targets are tracked and monitored daily, weekly, or monthly. Although vitally important to day-to-day management, operational targets are not strategic objectives unless tied to a milestone that is part of a plan to achieve a strategic goal. 

Strategic objectives have a more extended focus; they typically define results for 12, 24, or more months. They are more complex or less specific than operational targets and may include multiple objectives as part of one strategic goal.  Success on strategic goals typically requires the participation of various stakeholders, possibly even external partners. They could require you to provide functional resources, expertise, or leadership to drive a specific aspect of the goal even if your boss has not assigned you a leadership role. 

Operational targets usually dominate our list of annual goals and can take the majority of our resources: time, staffing, funding. For individual contributors, your capacity may limit you from successfully achieving more than your operational targets. But for those of us in management or leadership positions, our success depends on finding the time to drive performance on the strategic goals while managing operational performance.

Setting the right strategic goals for your position depends on your strategic thinking abilities.  Here are a few strategic thinking tips for exploring how to set the right strategic objectives for your position and prepare to achieve them this year successfully. 

  • Review your firm’s strategic plan and the near-term priorities it outlines for areas where you should participate or drive progress on non-operational targets.
  • Scan your professional field for innovations, trends, or regulatory changes that may impact your ability to perform well against operational targets in the future.
  • Evaluate your team’s ability to manage against operational targets with less of your involvement. Make shifts in roles and responsibilities so you can dedicate the time required for strategic goals.
  • Review your priorities with your boss and peers to gain their support, involvement, or additional resources if needed.

To help each of us make 2021 a year of transformation and growth, we are launching our first Strategy Class® online course, Set Strategic Management Objectives. Take this course to apply strategic thinking to your role and drive strategic performance all year long.

Strengthen how you set your strategic management objectives by enrolling and meet the new year with a focused strategic management discipline.



Post Tags: Strategic Management

CECILIA LYNCH, Author, Founder and Chief Strategist


As the leading authority on strategic thinking, Cecilia Lynch is the founder and chief strategist at Focused Momentum® and creator of Strategy Class®. Her first book, “Strategic Focus: The Art of Strategic Thinking” a groundbreaking work that demystifies the overwhelming task of beginning strategy development.  READ MORE...

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