April 17, 2021

How to Set Aspirational Goals for Your Organization

aspirational goal setting

Many goal setting methodologies come with this one grounding caveat: your goals have to be reasonable, realistic, and accessible. In the day-to-day, this is a useful, budget-preserving boundary to have that helps a company take organized steps forward with the resources already available to them. In terms of long-term growth, employing the ideology of realism and reasonableness can be a dampener. 

And that’s why it’s important to make sure that, every once in a while, your organization shoots for the moon. In this article, we’re going to go over aspirational goal setting, how to set audacious objectives, and what that may look like for you. 

What Is Aspirational Goal Setting?

The two most commonly talked about OKRs are committed, and aspirational. 

Committed OKRs are those that fall into the “reasonable and realistic” category. They are achievable goals which have a set timeline in which they should be met, and often act as stepping stones to larger or more grandiose objectives. They can be used for the benefit of individuals, teams, departments or the organization as a whole. 

Example: Increase customer retention through an improved customer support experience.

  • Expand the CS department to effectively process a greater call volume.
  • Redesign CS self-service platforms for easier navigability.

Aspirational OKRs are those out-of-this-world dreams which often defy the parameters of the current systems and institutions. Aspirational goals differ from committed goals in that they rarely are based within resources or policies currently at an organization’s disposal. Instead, an aspirational goal imagines what could be possible for your organization if there were no limits.

Setting an aspirational goal can be an incredible strategy for business transformation because it often requires a great deal of change in order to be achieved. They are designed to challenge your team, and even if they are unmet can result in incredible achievements. 

It is important to use these two concepts in tandem when setting objectives for either individuals or greater teams. Using only committed OKRs can mean slow progress or uninspiring change. But using only aspirational goal setting with no realistic follow-through can be exhausting and discouraging. The best strategy is to dream big, and then support that dream with a practical and actionable strategy. 

How to Set Aspirational Goals for Your Organization

Here are the steps you can take to set  aspirational goals. 

  • Ambitious, but  grounded. While it’s important to challenge what you think is possible, it is also critical that your objectives avoid venturing into the world of the truly unrealistic. Setting the goal of becoming market leader in DEI management when you are a workforce education solution is a recipe for failure. On the other hand, becoming the top HR software company on the Fortune 500 list is a fair and ambitious goal to set for your company.
  • Be specific. Vague objective parameters are unhelpful and make it unclear precisely what you’re working towards. But a detailed goal can support you in understanding the smaller steps you need to take in order to get there, and helps everyone on the team figure out how they fit into the broader plan.
  • Define key results. Once you have your specific objective statement, work backwards from there and define other goals you will need to reach along the way. If need be, those goals can also be broken down into KPIs for a more precise idea of what work needs to be done in order to reach your ultimate goal.
  • Engage committed OKRs. Form realistic goals that you can use to support your aspirational goals. These are the concrete steps you will need to take in order to make your dream achievable.
  • Stay flexible. Check in on your progress at regular intervals and be prepared to make adjustments to your plan. Working towards audacious objectives is always going to be a learning experience, and you should be willing and able to incorporate and compensate for whatever new information you gather along the way. 

Aspirational Goal Setting Examples

Let’s take a look at a few examples of aspirational goal setting for individuals as well as organizations at the enterprise level. 

Personal Aspirational Goal Setting

A new employee at a major retail company is inspired by the competency and commitment displayed by her store’s HR specialist. She has always thought about entering Human Resources, but her previous experience lies mostly in food service management and so she believed the goal to be unrealistic. But one day her supervisor compliments her for her ability to “rally the troops” on the floor, and this gives her the inspiration she needs to take the first steps towards her dream.

She sets the aspirational objective to become Chief Human Resources Officer at her company within the next 10 years. 

Her key results include:

  • Transfer to the HR department at her company as an HR Assistant.
  • Utilize the organization’s educational benefits to earn a BA in human resources.
  • Get hired as an HR generalist at corporate by year 4. 
  • Work as Regional Director of HR by year 8.
  • Become CHRO.

    Enterprise Aspirational Goal Setting.

    Leadership at a mid-sized enterprise corporation has felt moved by recent social movements, and motivated to shift company culture to be more accommodating and inclusive towards marginalized employees. 

    They set the aspirational objective to have diverse representation at every level of their company. 

    Their key results include:

    • Create a company culture which supports and perpetuates DEI. 
    • Create a DEI specific department tasked with strategizing DEI initiatives within the company.
    • Create and maintain educational programs which support marginalized employees.
    • Reserve leadership positions for underrepresented individuals within the organization. 

    Aspirational Goal Setting: Final Thoughts

    If your company is out to change the world you have to include aspirational goal setting in your repertoire. Set your organization up for success, now and well into the future, by taking practical steps towards audacious objectives. 

    The next step in setting aspirational goals for your organization is planning the steps and success markers that will mark your way towards them. Learn more about how to effectively engage an OKR tool to help you do this here: 3 reasons businesses fail at implementing an OKR tool.

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