When I was a kid we would play ‘horse’ with a basketball. One strategy was to take shots we knew we could make (“lay-ups”)and to outlast an opponent with consistency. A second strategy was to take low-percentage shots (“long shots”) on the theory that, if you do make the shot, it will be very difficult for your opponent to also make it. Setting goals is a bit of a horse game too. Some people take the first approach and set easy goals. There are two problems with that: First, easy goals at one level of the organization get rolled-up into easy goals higher in the organization, and before you know it the whole organization is doing easy layups and declaring victory. But the biggest problem with easy goals is that the organization will never find out just how good it is.
The second approach is to set truly difficult goals—some call them “Dream” goals. The key is not to treat them as dreams at all, because unlike a low-percentage basketball shot, a dream goal is accomplished over a time period and can be achieved through skill and determination. And that’s how organizations get better at what they do.
Setting goals should not be the same as playing horse. It’s not about lay-ups and long-shots, it’s about organization growth and leadership resolve.