Set Goals with Outcomes, Not Activities!

I’ve cleaned my room” she said as I walked with her to the room. We got there and I briefly wondered if my daughter had some momentary cognitive lapse.  The problem was that we had different views of the goal. You see, she had picked up all the clothes off the floor but dumped them on the bed! Hers was an activity based goal while mine was outcome based.

And mine wasn’t just better because I was the parent or adult. In fact, adults often have goals like hers.

ImageWhether you’re running a business, leading a non-profit, serving a church,  you need to constantly set goals. Organizational progress is impossible without goals – that bit we know. Perhaps you also know to make your goals SMART.

Yes goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable (yet Aggressive), Relevant and Time-bound.

But how do you frame your goals? Do you describe what you will do? Or do you specify what the outcome should be? The latter is always better.

Every parent knows innately that “have a clean and tidy room”, is a better goal than “pick the clothes off the floor”. One is an outcome, the other is an activity. Good teachers know that “…students will be able to resolve challenging problems in mechanics by applying and solving quadratic equations” is a better goal than “I will teach the students all the methods of solving quadratic equations this semester“!

Whether you are rolling out a new product, starting a new ministry or simply trying to get a room clean – frame your goals as outcomes and not as activities.

And yes I explained to my daughter that “what we want is a tidy room”!


I am a pastor and adjunct professor. I am interested in Leadership, Education, culture as well as the spiritual life. I am the author of no books, but I blog occasionally. I am married and have 4 lovely children.

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Posted in Coaching, Leadership

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