We’re walking through how to create and write out your strategic objectives.
In this extensive article, we’ll walk through how to create and write out your strategic objectives—and give some examples along the way. (Note that many of the examples below are from a nonprofit angle. There is so much written from a for-profit orientation, so we thought this would be helpful to a broader audience.) If you're looking for ways to think about creating your operational goals, check out this article.
Just because you are in the same industry doesn’t mean you have the same strategy. So, you may not have the same objectives as others in your industry. For example, financial institutions like Ally or E*Trade focus on leveraging customer-focused technology, so their objectives are likely focused on having user-friendly software and developing tools that will help their customers. Financial institutions like Goldman Sachs or Merrill Lynch focus on leveraging personal relationships, so their objectives are likely focused on providing excellent customer service or developing personal relationships.
Thus, you should base your strategic objectives on your strategy—not another organization’s strategy.
The Balanced Scorecard has four perspectives—financial, customer, internal processes, and people (learning and growth). If you have 10-15 strategic objectives, they shouldn’t all fall into just one of those perspectives. Instead, they should be (at least somewhat) evenly distributed among the four.
See Also: The 4 Balanced Scorecard Perspectives: An Overview For Managers
The typical format of a strategic objective is “Verb + Adjective + Noun.” If you use this formula, your strategic objectives will create an action statement.
Note that your strategic objectives should describe your strategy—not just a typical strategy. For example, a nonprofit may consider their approach to fundraising and come up with the following objectives:
Sometimes a three- to five-word strategic objective isn’t enough information for those who are not in the room when the objective is decided or someone who isn’t on the leadership team. So, you need to write objective statements—no more than 2-3 sentences each—that clarify the objective’s intent and meaning.For example, if the objective is “Increase event-driven fundraising,” the objective statement might be:
“We will develop a world-class website that makes it easy for donors to interact with us. We will do this by partnering with an outside web development firm.”
The objective statement should describe what the objective means and how it will be accomplished.
Learning & Growth
About 10 years ago, Teach For America created a Balanced Scorecard—and this case example represents their objectives and strategy at the time. (Note that some of the objectives have been simplified.)
This Food for the Hungry case example is pulled from a book author Paul Niven wrote in 2008, “Balanced Scorecard: Step-by-Step for Government and Nonprofit Agencies.”
The best way to get started with writing out your strategic objectives is to ask yourself these key questions.
Creating strategic objectives is a great way to prepare those in your organization for being able to talk about your strategy consistently and coherently. Ultimately, you’ll also need to create and write out measures and projects in order to manage your strategy.
Ted is a Founder and Managing Partner of ClearPoint Strategy and leads the sales and marketing teams.