Setting and Targeting Your Institution’s Goals: A Leadership Imperative


“Goal Setting” from an institutional perspective, is probably one of the most powerful planning and management tools at a leader’s disposal for determining how an organization will ultimately reach or achieve its objectives, aspirations or fulfill its mission. Therefore, the clear identification and articulation of an organization’s goals is an essential requirement for reaching or attaining levels of clarity regarding the organization’s future trajectory, impact or direction.

More often than not, we hear about institutions, especially nonprofits, that function or operate in the absence of clear, concise measurables goals, Unfortunately, when an organization operates in such a vacuum, it is virtually impossible to measure the organization’s impact or success. This lack of organizational clarity creates confusion, disappointment and organizational distress, as well as a lack of institutional transparency and accountability – two of the most  essential  components for an institution’s viability and sustainability. It can also become a formula for dysfunctionality which will only create a downward spiral for the institution

Just imagine waking up one morning as you prepare for a long-anticipated robust jog. But once you arrive at the jogging trail, you have absolutely no idea which direction to pursue, or how to even determine the direction you originally intended.  Distressing indeed!

Although this is an exaggerated example, it does illustrate the critical importance of goal-setting as an indispensable tool for determining a person’s or an organization’s future course of action, aspirational roadmap or direction.

Throughout my executive coaching experience, I often advise my clients and colleagues that if they are really uncertain as to where they are going, the direction they are moving their institution, or where they would like the organization to be in the future, chances are highly likely that they won’t get there. 

At first blush, this advice appears to be pretty pediatric, basic and obvious. Nevertheless, that being the case, why are so many people in  leadership positions lost in the decision-making matrix and lacking a sense of direction? Could it be a lack of vision? A lack of aspirational thinking or blue-skying,  or can it be the inability to clearly articulate a “goal” or goals for the organization? A person can be a dynamic leader, a visionary and a great thinker, but if she/he lacks the ability to set measurable goals for the organization, than all the visioning, charisma and aspirational thinking is for naught (within the context of goals-setting). Although this reality appears to be somewhat antithetical, it is true and plays itself out continuously  in real time on the stage of nonprofit organizational management staff meetings, board rooms and c-suite offices.

Just several months ago, I observed a day school that had brilliant  professional leadership, visionary management and an amazingly effective organizational structure. But, unfortunately the school did not make the grade and it failed an accreditation eligibility process due to a lack of clear and concise  long and short-term measurable goals.

One way to clarify and institution’s goals is by ensuring that each goal is clearly defined, laser-focused and measurable.  Focusing the institution’s attention on mega or big-picture goals is always a good first step in setting and targeting the institution’s goals. This process should then be followed by breaking down the mega or big-picture goals into more detailed or finite goals, with greater levels of specificity and focus.

An example to illustrate this point:

In an effort to enhance the growth and productivity of a company’s staff, the CEO of the organization directs each of its department heads to require that all staff develop individualized professional development plans. The Goal here is to ensure that each member of staff is on a professional development trajectory or path in the organization.

This mega-goal albeit lofty and meaningful does not focus on specific outcomes but rather on the mega-goals and aspirations for the company.. Taking it to the next level requires that there be specific goals for each staff member. Some will require professional development training  in leadership and decision-making, while others  will need to hone their communications and  technology skills. Each portfolio however requires a specific goal, and  outcomes which are realistic and measurable.

In my book entitled “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011, I presented the concept of Targeted Goals, which is a variation on the concept of Smart Goals.

Not unlike “SMART” goals (which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound), and which are now very popular in management circles, “Targeted” goals are those which are Timely, Attainable, Realistic, Guided, Enduring and Tangible. The bottom line is that targeted goals are viewed along a continuum  and are more carefully directed, guided and nurtured….. and, therefore for many, may be easier to create, manage, measure and achieve.

Whether one uses, Smart Goals or Targeted Goals, the most important point being made here is that goals are essential in order to move an organization forward.

 Setting and Targeting Goals in Jewish Day Schools:

When reviewing the critical importance of setting and targeting goals in education, it is essential that that we understand and appreciate the types of goals which we should consider.

Within the context of Jewish day school education, we often hear about day school goals that aspire to increase levels of Jewish identity, Jewish literacy, Jewish involvement, attitudes and behaviors.

Each of these goals are essential. They each speak to the heart and soul of what Jewish day schools are all about and how they endeavor to produce skills and instill feelings and attitudes and help build literacy  in their students. But by the same token, they must each be anchored in a series of serious realistic outcomes as well as guided by solid curricula and pedagogy which enable the realization of these goals.

Increasing levels of Jewish  identity is a central aspiration for a Jewish educational institutions. In the absence of measurable goals however, they become somewhat fuzzy and often-times subject to interpretation, definition and individualized subjective judgement. In other words, schools must be very specific about what they endeavor to teach, why they  endeavor to teach it, how they will teach it and the ultimate GOALS or outcomes for teaching it,  Parenthetically , it’s probably a lot easier to measure student Jewish literacy skills  than it is Jewish identity. …..although great strides have recently been made to effectively measure short and long-term  Jewish identity impact in our schools and communities..

The Ultimate Goal: 

The purpose of this BLOG is not intended to inform institutions as to what their goals  should or should be…..but rather to stress the imperative for institutions to actually have in place  well defined measurable goals.  Institutions without goals, whether they be programmatic, total institutional or cultural is like a ship in the ocean with no  navigational instruments or even a map with a destination.

At first blush, the need for setting and targeting goals appears to be obvious.  But, if it is so obvious, why are there hundreds of books, lectures conferences and strategic planning consultations necessary to help create and build this reality.

When you set goals for your institution, you take more control over the institution’s direction and ultimate destiny. Goals provide you with focus. The decisions you make and actions you take should bring you and your institution closer to achieving those goals.

Setting goals keeps you and your institution moving forward….it enhances and significantly benefits everyone in your organization  and  creates a sense of direction.  When you set goals, you actually create a vision of what you and your staff could look like.  Then you start pushing the organization and your team to get the best results possible.

About the Author
Dr. Chaim Botwinick is currently Principal of the Hebrew Academy Community Day School in Margate FL and Executive Coach and Consultant. He served as president and CEO of the central agency for Jewish education in Baltimore and in Miami. He has published and lectured extensively on topics relating to education, strategic planing and leadership development. Dr. Botwinick is Author of “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011
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