PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Setting Objectives David Wright, UKLA Director General

Setting, agreeing and achieving objectives is central to any business role. Whether it is ensuring you meet targets or goals expected by your line manager or your team, objectives can help to focus your effort and activity in key areas that are essential for the business.

Objectives are often referred to as the ‘goals.’ They are the things to aim at which can demonstrate achievement over a specific period. Strategy is the way you achieve your goals, it is the path or the approach you can take to delivering your goals or objectives.

So an objective could be to improve customer retention by 15% in the calendar year 2020 (the goal), by prioritising key customers and developing relationships in order to meet their needs more fully (this is the strategy or the way).

Objectives should always be SMART, that is: Specific – related to a discrete task or activity.

Measurable – they should be quantifiable to be able to identify whether the objective has been achieved.

Achievable – objectives should be stretching, they should contain some form of challenge or extra effort to reach.

Realistic – they should be achievable in the specific period to which they relate.

Time-specific or time-bound – they should be specific to a certain period of time whether this is the whole calendar year, a portion of the year or even spread over two or three years.

Coming back to our objective and applying the SMART model ‘to improve customer retention (specific) by 15% (measurable) in the calendar year 2020 (time-specific)’. Is the objective achievable and realistic? Well, it will depend on the level of customer retention achieved in the previous year.


If customer retention was higher than 15% last year there may be a good reason why 15% is realistic and challenging if a new competitor is aggressively threatening your customer base or something significant has occurred in the marketplace.

If customer retention was lower than 15% then setting it at this level might be suitable but only if it’s realistic and achievable, but also stretching and challenging at the same time.

Sometimes objectives can be simply carried forward from one year to the next with a percentage build being added on each year.

This may be perfectly acceptable and right for the situation, but over time if objectives become detached from the realities of the marketplace or the customers to which they are attached, they can become a disincentive to perform.

Objectives should be a two-way process between what the individual thinks is stretching, challenging but achievable and what the line manager believes is the right objective for the individual taking account of the organisational needs.

In this way objectives can be built from the bottom up for an organisation by culminating all the individual and team objectives, or from the top down by setting strategic organisational objectives and then cascading these throughout every level of the organisation.

In April, UKLA will be holding a Lubricant Key Account Management course to provide delegates with the practical skills they need to make a success of Key Account Management including market segmentation, pricing models, sales methodologies, consumer buying behaviour, approaches to industrial sales, and devising key account management strategies for ensuring customer satisfaction and organisational success.


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