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Setting a goal for an organization is a trying task that takes energy and time if done right. Your goal will tell you, and everyone in the organization, and outside what you are aiming for and working towards. This will influence what will happen with the organization in the future. It is important to take into account everyone, and their point-of-view, which is why it is recommended that you set differentiated goals. In this article we describe some models, that make goal setting more manageable. First, we will describe when to set goals – and when not to – using the theory of “freeze and unfreeze” by psychologist Kurt Lewin. Next, we will describe the SMART goal- model, which is used as a tool for setting goals in an organization. This model helps you set goals, that make sense.

Freeze and unfreeze

One way to look at the process of setting goals is through the theory of freeze/unfreeze by the Swedish psychologist Kurt Lewin. Setting goals is a task that takes energy and time and that can change what you do and how. This is why it is so important to think about when to set goals.


When you get up in the morning and grab your regular breakfast, do you think about where you have place the bowls, plates and utensils in your kitchen? Probably not. That would take you out of your routine and make you re-evaluate where everything in your house is place and how you act in your kitchen. The reason you don’t think about these things in your everyday life is called freeze mode, which means that you take things for granted and don’t rethink everything. This makes humans able to act in everyday life, but you might overlook the big picture.  Not thinking about everything frees you up to think about more specific tasks.




Once in a while you might want to unfreeze and think if you have actually placed your cups in the best place of the kitchen. Unfreezing one thing will make more things unfreeze. If you move your coffee cup over next to the coffee machine you might have to move the tea leaves that were there before, which will take the place of the sugar cubes and so on. When re-thinking your organizations goals in relation to e.g. branding you cannot do it without also rethinking human resources, production, where you get your supplies and so on. This unfreezing is a demanding task that will take a lot of psychological energy, but will benefit in the long run. This means you should do it regularly, but not too often.


To not waste energy and time, there needs to be a respect for the fact that when you set a goal it is set in stone and you need to trust it. This way you can focus on something else and be confident in your decisions. Then you might set a date for when you need to reflect on the goal, but it cannot be done constantly.


One of the suitable models to follow when setting a goal for your organization is the SMART model. SMART is an abbreviation of Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Based and it is a well-established tool that you can use to plan and achieve your goals. It is commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept.

SMART is an abbreviation of the words “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Attainable”, “Relevant” and “Time Based”. Below is an explanation of each of these.


Your goal should be clear and specific, otherwise your employees won’t be able to focus your efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve it and you won’t be able to measure it with key performance indicators (KPIs). It is important that goals are clear for the employees, who have to deal with them and it has to be clear what the KPI exactly measures. The employees know what happens in the everyday, so the strategic goals have to build on a common understanding between everyone involved. When using KPIs it is often useful to find out, what you want to know and thereafter look through data to find the answers. The KPIs would not matter if they did not measure on something specific and useful. It will also make it easier for you and your employee to identify a clear plan to achieve the KPI.

It’s important to have measurable goals, so that you can track your progress and stay motivated. To be able to use KPIs to track your progress it is important to have quantitative or quantifiable data. Keeping updated with the progress of the KPIs helps the employees stay focused, meet deadlines, and feel the excitement of getting closer to achieving your common goal. One way to make sure everyone are always updated is to use a dashboard, which makes it easy to share KPIs of the company in real time.
Your goal also needs to be realistic and attainable. It is important that the strategic goal is achievable, but not too easy to achieve. If the goal is not achievable the motivation to work towards it disappears. So before setting the goal, you should always take into account the competencies and materials available. One way to ensure this is to get the employee’s feedback on what they think their potential is. When the task is too difficult to achieve the employees usually give up or get stressed and under perform. If the goal is too easy to achieve it will not motivate the employees. Nothing is more discouraging than striving for a goal that you will never obtain.
To succed it is important to ensure that your goal matters to everyone involved, and that it also aligns with other relevant goals. The KPI must give more insight in the performance of the organization in obtaining its strategy. It is also important that the goals and KPIs work towards growing your business and align with your overall goals.
Every goal needs a target date, so that you have a deadline to focus on and something to work toward. Every KPI only has a meaning if one knows the time dimension in which it is realized. The most effective KPIs are measured against a time factor, such as targets to be met per day, per month, per quarter and annually.

This research proves at setting goals will help your organization.

When setting your goal, you are not setting a standard of what is acceptable, but for what you want to get or reach. 

This is a hard statement and setting goals is a delicate process. Nevertheless, studies shows that those who set ambitious, but achievable, goals tend to be more productive and better at achieving them. 

This way of thinking leads to the fact that not reaching your goal also improves on your company. You should be in an iterative cycle, where the goals that are not achieved influence what you do in terms of strategy and future goals. 

Using the theories described in this article, we can say that using goals for your organization works better when it is done at a specific time. Then they are not questioned again before the time has run out, or an unacceptable level has been reached.

The best goals are clear and specific and relevant, so that the employees can relate to them and see how their actions affect the goals. The goals also have to be measurable, so there is no doubt whether they have been achieved or not. In addition goals should be realistic and attainable, so neither the employee or employer will give up beforehand. And last, but not least the goals should be time based, so there is a deadline to work towards.

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