Determine and review your organisation's objectives*

It is the responsibility of the board of directors to ensure that the company fulfills its mission statement.

In doing so, the board of directors should also set the company's overall policy objectives, and monitor activity to ensure that they remain relevant and that they continue to be applied.

Objectives are fundamental to guiding management. For example, the basis of the Investors in People standard is that every employer should have a written but flexible plan which sets out business goals and targets, considers how employees will contribute to achieving the plan and specifies how development needs in particular will be assessed and met.

The ISO 9001:2000 quality standard requires that an organisation's quality policy provide a framework for reviewing the company's quality objectives. The policy should give an overall direction for the organisation, and its objectives should flow in that direction. The standard requires that management periodically review changes to both the policy and objectives. An organisation's objectives must be measurable and its quality management processes designed to meet those objectives.

Setting Objectives

An objective is a specific step, a milestone, which enables you to accomplish a goal. Setting right objectives is critical for effective performance management.

The most well known method for setting objectives is the SMART way. S.M.A.R.T refers to the acronym that describes the key characteristics of meaningful objectives, which are Specific (concrete, detailed, well defined), Measurable (numbers, quantity, comparison), Achievable (feasible, actionable), Realistic (considering resources) and Time-Bound (a defined time line).

SMART objectives are the stepping stones towards the achievement of goals.

SMART conditions are excellent for defining a goal or objective. Let's look at their characteristics in more detail.


Specific means that the objective is concrete, detailed, focused and well defined. That is the objective is straightforward, emphasises action and the required outcome. Objectives need to communicate what you would like to see happen.


Objectives need to be achievable, if the objective is too far in the future, people will find it difficult to keep motivated and to strive towards its attainment. Objectives, unlike aspirations and visions, need to be achievable to keep people motivated. Whilst being obtainable, objectives should also stretch people, but not so far that they become frustrated and lose motivation.


Objectives that are achievable, may not be realistic. However, realistic does not mean easy. Realistic means having the resources to get it done. The achievement of an objective requires resources, such as, skills, money and equipment to support the tasks required to achieve the objective.


"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it!"

If the objective is measurable, it means that the measurement source is identified and progress towards achieving the objective can be tracked.


Time-bound means setting deadlines for the achievement of the objective. Deadlines create the all important sense of urgency. If a deadline is not set, there will be less motivation and urgency to execute the tasks. Deadlines create the necessary urgency and prompt action.

Corporate governance

Does your board determine the organisation's objectives?

If so, are they: -

  • Consistent with vision, mission and values?
  • Endorsed by all board members?
  • Championed by the board throughout the organisation?
  • Clearly stated?
  • Realistic and achievable?
  • Measurable?
  • Communicated effectively throughout the organisation?
  • Monitored and reviewed regularly to ensure appropriateness?

* Inspired by the Institute of Directors Standards for the Board

What to do next

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