5 Powerful Questions to Make Intangible Goals Measurable

March 3, 2020 by Stacey Barr

Language is the key to make intangible goals or objectives measurable. These 5 questions will help you make the language more tangible, and thereby measurable.

A hand holding a very tangible rock. Credit: https://www.istockphoto.com/au/portfolio/t-gomo

It’s been said that most workforces have an average literacy level of a 10-year-old. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this affects the execution of strategy. From my own experience, most strategic goals are written in language that even people with post-graduate degrees don’t understand. (This research found that over 85% of organisations have goals that are written vaguely and intangibly.)

What proportion of your organisation’s strategic goals are written intangibly? What about the rest of the goals written throughout your organisation?

Intangible goals are written using weasel words to describe the object of
the goal, the thing that we want to improve. Like these:

  • Drive improvement and innovation in our resource utilisation and productivity.
  • Strategic and innovative investment decisions will create business and industry opportunities that are commercially sustainable.
  • Create an engaged and agile organisation which
    focuses on building capability, capacity and an evidence base to achieve our outcomes.
  • Deliver market strategies to improve access, demand, and positioning for our products.
  • Providing value add activities and business insight while maintaining an optimised reporting and control environment.

You can only waste time and trigger more KPI cynicism when you try to measure an intangibly written goal. Don’t do it. Intangible goals are not real goals. Goals are supposed to make a noticeable or detectable improvement in the real world. They have to be tangible:

Intangible

Tangible

abstract
concrete
subjective
objective
esoteric
familiar
vague
specific
broad
focused
amgibuous
obvious
conceptual
observable

 

When you’re sitting together, staring at an intangible goal that you want to measure, this series of questions will help you make it tangible:

  1. Can any of us explain, convincingly, what this goal really means, so that we all share the same understanding of it?
  2. Which words are the weasel words, and how could we write a definition of each them, tailored to our organisation?
  3. If a 10-year-old were in the room with us, how would we explain it to them so they could understand it?
  4. If the goal were happening already in a parallel universe, what would be the most obvious observable differences between our universe and that one?
  5. What exactly would we see, hear, touch or detect when this goal is
    achieved, that we cannot see, hear, touch or detect now?

If you can answer most of these questions well, then your answers will contain the words that the goal should have been written with, in the first place. Use these words to rewrite it more tangibly, and therefore measurably.

If a 10-year-old were in the room with you, how would you explain your intangible goal to them in words they can understand? [tweet this]

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