Write great goals with Asana Goals

Goal tracking thrives when teams are on the same page about what constitutes a well-written goal.

Read on if you are new to goal tracking or are looking for guidance to help your teams write goals that work.

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Great goals have three characteristics:

1. A clear intention

Goals generally fall under one of two categories depending on their intent: inspirational or measurable.

Inspirational goals are bold, challenging statements that describe a destination. They should represent progress toward the organization’s mission.

For example, if a company’s mission is “Become the most popular vegan ice cream in the world.”, an example of an inspirational goal could be “Be the #1 ice cream brand on social media this year.”

Inspirational goals are not missions or strategies—they should describe an outcome that can be achieved within its time frame. They are meant to rally your teams in the same direction and help them come up with concrete goals to get there. Those concrete goals are the second category of goals.

If you are familiar with OKRs, Objectives have an inspirational function.

Measurable goals are those specific targets to hit. For example: “Become a trending topic on Twitter every month of the year.”

If inspirational goals are the destination, measurable goals are the map describing how you will progress to get there.

Write your measurable goals to show they are tied to your inspirational goal. Your inspirational goal will be met once all the measurable goals tied to it are completed.

If you are familiar with OKRs, Key Results have a measurable function.

Measurable goals should always support inspirational goals. If you don’t tie measurable goals to “Be the #1 ice cream brand on social media this year.” it’s going to be hard to know if you achieved that goal.

Encourage your teams to ask themselves if their goal is inspirational or measurable.

2. A precise definition of success

A clear definition of success is the foundation of a great goal. It has two components: the goal description and the grading criteria used to evaluate its completion.

The description of the goal

The description answers:

  • Why are we setting this goal?
  • What are we trying to achieve?

In cases where there are no clear grading criteria for a goal, the description of the goal can answer “What would success look/feel like?”.

The grading criteria

In Asana, goals can be graded as achieved, partial, or missed, so it’s key to include criteria for evaluating them.

For inspirational goals, the grading criteria are linked to the measurable sub-goals that support them. Grading criteria for them can take many forms, for example:

  • Achieved: “5 out of 5 sub-goals are achieved.”
  • Partial: “At least 3 sub-goals are achieved” or “Sub-goals X, Y, and Z are achieved.”
  • Missed: “Less than 3 sub-goals are achieved.”

Asana can automatically calculate the percentage achieved of a parent goal from the percentage of its sub-goals. Learn more about automatic progress rollups.

Each goal should have 3-5 sub-goals, at most 10. Otherwise, it becomes difficult to understand the relationship between sub-goals and their parent goals.

Measurable goals must include targets that determine their level of success. These targets must be falsifiable—it should be easy to say whether they were met or not.

Here are some examples:

  • Binary (Yes/No): “We conducted a company-wide survey.”
  • Percentage: “We grew our customer base by 120%.”
  • Number: “We designed and launched 12 new courses.”
  • Currency: “We make $100M in annual revenue.”

Metrics are also combined with grading levels:

  • Achieved: “We make $100M in annual revenue.”
  • Partial: “We make $80M or more in annual revenue.”
  • Missed: “We make less than $80M in annual revenue.”

In cases where success is tied to the completion of milestones, projects, or goals, Asana can automatically update the progress of a goal based on them. Otherwise, you can define metrics that you update manually.

3. Specificity

Make the content of your goal specific to reduce ambiguity and create alignment. Include the following:

What

  • Use a clear and concise name that conveys the spirit of the goal.
  • Goals should be ambitious but also achievable. They should be challenging but have a clear plan to get there.
  • If possible, include details related to the execution plan (e.g., the main goal milestones).

Who

Drivers:

  • Assign an owner to the goal. Asana is designed so that goals can only have one owner for clear accountability. Owners can see the goals assigned to them in their “My goals” tab in Asana.
  • When possible, assign non-company goals to a driving team. Asana teams can be specific teams or larger groups like a division, function, region, or cross-functional group. Team members can see the goals assigned to their teams in their “Team goals” tab in Asana.

Stakeholders:

  • In cases where more people are involved in a goal, they can be added as its members.
  • If several stakeholders have clear roles in the goal, it’s a good practice to add that to its description (e.g., a RACI table describing responsibilities).

When:

  • Make sure to assign goals a time period like “Q1”, by which it should be completed.
  • Time periods are key to determining when the goal should be graded.
  • If your goal is tied to a more specific date, add a custom due date to your goal. Asana will send the goal owner a reminder to close the goal one week before the custom due date.

How

  • Attach goals as sub-goals to the parent(s) they contribute to directly.
  • Add the work that contributes to a goal:
    • Projects can be added as contributing directly to a goal's progress using automatic progress rollups.
    • Related projects and portfolios can be added as reference work in the References section of a goal.

Writing great goals can be easy. Setting clear intentions for your goal will help you determine the outcomes you want to achieve and what success will look like. You’ll also need to establish how you want to evaluate your goal’s progress.

Remember to be specific on how and by when your goal should be achieved, define goal drivers for accountability and keep your stakeholders informed on how their work contributes to the goal’s progress.

 

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