This article throws light upon the six main characteristics of sound goals. The characteristics are: 1. Goals have to be Specific 2. Goals must be Measurable 3. Goals have to be Time-Specific 4. Goals should Focus on Results, not on Activities 5. Goals should be Challenging but Realistic 6. Goals must be set by the People Responsible for Accomplishing them, Wherever Possible.

Characteristic # 1. Goals have to be Specific:

In most organisations goals are usually stated in too general terms. This is a very common weakness of organisational goals. More flexibility in organisational goals is not enough. The organisational goals must be both clear-cut and specific. For instance, it is not enough to state that a company’s objective is growth.

The growth goal may be specified in such terms as: (1) adequate growth of sales (such as 10% increase over that of last year), (2) market position (such as attaining 20% share of the market by 2000) and (3) profitability (such as 12% increase in profits over last year).

Boone and Koontz have opined that:


“Specific high-level goals become simple if the process of goal setting is initiated at lower levels in the organisation.”

Characteristic # 2. Goals must be Measurable:

Goals should not only be specific but measurable. For instance, a goal of increased market should have little relevance unless it is specified whether the goal is to achieve 1% or 20% in one year. Such measurable goals do serve as a basis for comparing actual performance indicator.

A goal of increasing market share by 10% during a year permits each manager to measure progress during the year. It also implies specific actions for all of those persons whose activities directly or indirectly affect the accomplishment of the goal.

The measurable goals promote mutual understanding among different people in the organisation. Some goals such as improved employee morale or provision of a safe work place, however, cannot be easily measured. In such cases some indirect measures has to be used. For example, employee safety might be expressed in such terms as reducing man-days lost as a result of accidents by 7% over that in the last year.


Likewise, employee morale may be set in these areas, too. After setting measurable goals management may be in a position to establish control procedures to determine whether performance is acceptable in each area.

Characteristic # 3. Goals have to be Time-Specific:

Time plays a very important role in the business world. Each goal will have to be accomplished within a specific time-period. Goals may be set on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. For example, increase in market share hardly carries any significance unless it is specified what should be the time frame within which this is to be achieved.

An increase in market share by 5% in a month or in a year mean two vastly different things.

Characteristic # 4. Goals should Focus on Results, not on Activities:

Activities are the means to achieve goals. For example, the goal of an organisation may be to raise employee productivity by 4% in 2000 and the means to achieve this may be on-the-job training for production workers.

Characteristic # 5. Goals should be Challenging but Realistic:


Goals that are unrealistic are likely to be ineffective because sooner or later employees will come to realise that they are unattainable. On the contrary, goals which call for the best efforts of all employees for their accomplishment are challenging but realistic. These goals are undoubtedly effective means of motivating people.

Characteristic # 6. Goals must be set by the People Responsible for Accomplishing them, Wherever Possible:

If goals are set by those who are responsible for accomplishing them it is very easy to obtain commitment to goals. It is because everyone responsible for goal setting will consider his own strength and weakness in accomplishing such goals.

An important task of management is to ensure that goals are communicated to all people in the organisation. Moreover, it is necessary for each employee to understand how his or her individual work goals relate to the overall goals of the organisation.

At this stage one may sound the note of caution that goals should not be so numerous or complex as to cause confusion among the members of the organisation. Moreover, it is necessary for manage­ment to periodically assess or define — or even replace — existing goals with new ones.


With organisational change in the environment of business there may be need for changes in goals. Goals must be properly revised to reflect these changes.