Goal Setting For Low Visibility

I’m having a great week this week. Like many of our team, I really really like having goals. The simpler the better. Lining up targets and knocking them down brings a sense of satisfaction, of momentum, of achievement. It doesn’t matter how small or simple the targets are.

Admiral William McRaven talks in his book ‘Make Your Bed’ about (surprise!) the impact of making your bed every day and why that is a core of the discipline and focus that makes the Navy SEALs the world famous high achievers they are. The point is not the bed. The point is to start the day having achieved something, completed a task. One of my goals (set today) is to actually read his book and find out what his other nine tips are.

But setting clear goals is not easy to do when no-one knows what is going to happen next year, next month, or even next week. This is where I come to a topic which I get really passionate about (I’ll be honest, I don’t make my bed every day. Yet…) For individuals, whether you are a pro athlete or a web designer; and for businesses, whether you are Google or a small start up bakery, there is a huge value in taking the time to understand the difference between process goals and outcome goals.



I have worked on this topic with businesses all round the world and found it to be both very simple, and surprisingly hard to do well. (As in fact is making your bed to military standards!) We naturally focus ahead to where we want to be. The Outcome.

  • The end of year revenue target (gulp!)
  • The company share price.
  • Our target weight or fitness goal.
  • Saving enough deposit to buy a house.

That big, shining achievement somewhere over there in the future may be what we think  we want, but it does a pretty bad job of motivating action. The bigger and further away the outcome is, the less tangible our progress is. The more muted the sense of achievement is. The easier it is to get side-tracked or disheartened.

“When you define process goals well, you can achieve your goals every day.”


What we should try to do instead is focus on the little inputs that will each day move us incrementally towards our outcome.

  • Daily sales activities to drive new business growth.
  • Finding small ways to make our teams more efficient, more sustainable, more valuable.
  • Getting out for a run or a walk each day. Eating less chocolate. Drinking less alcohol.
  • Cutting down on unnecessary spending on snacks, coffees, takeaway (Thanks lockdown!)

When you define these process goals well, you can achieve your goals every day. You can have that sense of achieving something every time you pick up the phone to a customer or  put on your trainers and step out the door rather than waiting and dreading that at the end of the month or year you might have missed your target.

Then if you want to go even further, you can introduce performance measures into your process activities. How far do you run or walk each day? How many customers do you call each week? How much money goes into the savings account each month? This way we unlock the full potential of really clear goal setting.



Right now many of us are in, or just emerging from, a serious fog of “what the F*&K!??”. Our big plans from the start of the year are shot full of holes. Our routines are up in the air. Our social and support networks are distanced and all online. Our job prospects may be uncertain.

This is certainly my situation, and it doesn’t matter!

Rebooting this simple process mindset has reminded me that my goal is not to be running a multi million pound business by 2025; It’s to write one interesting LinkedIn post each day this week. I don’t have to close 10 new projects by the end of the year; I just need to do a great job for the one I’m working on now and call three prospects today.

What are the simple process and performance goals that will get you moving towards where you want to be?