Business goals: using just numbers can be meaningless

July 19, 2014

 “Our business goal is to improve our customer service by 10% next year.”


‘’We will achieve our service standard with 90% of calls answered within 10 seconds.”

Cause for celebration?

Have you ever heard or read statements such as these?  Do you believe them? Do they feel like real business goals?

They’re common in both the public and private sectors, yet I’m always cynical about these sorts of announcements and often fail to see how they are real business goals.  Take the first example – the one concerned with setting a round-sum percentage target. I always wonder how or why it’s such a precise figure – could it be just a hope?

It could suggest that the speaker knows exactly how they are going to achieve that level of improvement.  Yet, in my experience, when you ask how this goal will be reached, the reply you’re likely to get is: “It’s all about trying harder”, or they talk of staff working better together.  If it’s that easy – improving their organisation with no real plan – why have they not done it already?

You need a method!

If you want to improve any part of your organisation you need a method that includes:

  •  Knowing how the organisation currently works, i.e. what are the individual processes and how do they perform against what your customers want?
  • Measuring the performance of the internal processes is called the “Voice of the Process”, whilst understanding what your customers want could be referred to as the “Voice of the Customer”.
  •   You then need to have a method which improves those processes and a strategy to measure the results against what the “Voice of the Customer” is saying.

If when discussing business goals, you hear a manager set a round-sum percentage target to improve an element of the organisation, such as service or sales, simply ask them, “By what method?”. If all you get in reply is intentions and wishful thinking, don’t hold your breath that things will improve.