How to Test if Your Strategic Goal Is Really Strategic

by Stacey Barr |

When you struggle to find meaningful measures for your strategic goals, there are a few problems that have to be fixed. I’ve written passionately and prolifically about how weasel words make goals immeasurable. And there’s another problem too, called multi-focus. Multi-focus is when we blend several performance results into a single goal statement. And when this happens, you are at great risk of having a goal that isn’t truly strategic. Here’s why.

Multi-focus goals sound big and important, so much so that it’s hard to argue with them. But we should argue with them, because this multi-focus problem often means we’ve blended strategic results and operational results together. That makes strategy very bloated, difficult to cascade, and too complex to meaningfully measure.

Take this goal for example:

“The community are encouraged to improve their health and well-being through physical activity and a greater use of active transport networks.”

This sounds very important, doesn’t it? And it also sounds hard to measure. Which parts should be measured? Are all parts really strategic?

The solution is to unbundle the goal into individual and specific performance results. For the example above, these performance results could be:

  1. “The community is healthy.”
  2. “The community is physically active.”
  3. “The community uses active transport networks.”

This makes it easier to decide what to measure. But it also makes it easier to decide what’s strategic and what’s operational. We can do this by mapping the relationships between these performance results:

“The community is healthy” is the effect of the other two performance results. This cause-effect relationship helps to position the second two results as causes of the first. When you get this cause-effect relationship embedded into a single strategic goal, it suggests that the goal is actually made up of performance results that sit at different levels or tiers in the organisation.

It means that we can set the strategic goal as “The community is healthy” and cascade the other two performance results as operational goals. It makes sense, because the two operational performance results would naturally be the responsibility of one or two divisions of the organisation. They would own these results, as goals within their own divisional plans.

So unbundling those multi-focus strategic goals into specific performance results, and mapping the relationships among those performance results, is a great way to keep your strategic goals strategic, and keep it all much simpler.


Check your strategic plan. Does it have multi-focus goals? Spend a few minutes unbundling them into performance results, map the relationships and see if you can simplify the strategy, making it easier to cascade and measure.

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