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Setting goals for an organization is a complicated task that takes energy and time. When done right your goals will tell you and everyone, both inside and outside the organization, what you are aiming for and what you are working towards. This will influence what will happen with the organization in the future. When setting goals, we find that there are times when it is scientifically easier to influence people to pursue and stick to it with commitment.  It is important to take everyone into account, as well as their point-of-view. This is why it is recommended that you set differentiated goals for each team or department. 

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. By making use of the theory of “freeze and unfreeze”, by the psychologist Kurt Lewin. Afterwards, 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. Read about them bellow!


 One way to look at the process of setting goals is through the theory of freeze-change-unfreeze by the Swedish psychologist Kurt Lewin. This model is important for setting goals as all businesses, no matter their field of work or size, are to face change through time. Therefore, we as a company must perceive change as a process compounded by different stages for which you should prepare and develop a plan to be able to cope with the evolution.

 Setting goals is a task that is time and energy consuming but which can change what you do and how you do it. This is why it is so relevant to think about when to set goals.

The theory is commonly compared to an ice cube, which, if left long enough, will melt. And therefore, it will be able to acquire a different shape than the original one. With the three stage model, Kurt Lewin provides us with an understanding of changes inside organizations.

1. Unfreeze

Unfreezing might be helpful to do once in a while in order to reconsider if you have actually placed the cups in the best spot in the kitchen. Unfreezing one thing will make more things unfreeze. If you move over your coffee cup next to the coffee machine, you might have to move the tea bags that were there before, which will then be taking the place of the sugar cubes and so on. When re-thinking your organizations’ goals in relation to branding, for instance, you cannot do it without also rethinking human resource, production, suppliers and so on.

Unfreezing is a demanding task that will take a lot of psychological energy but from which you will benefit in the long run. This means that you should do it regularly, but not too often. To be able to carry out the unfreezing stage, we first need to make everyone in our company aware that change is necessary. The reason why the system should change needs to be visible and the gap between the current situation and the ideal situation should be highlighted. This way, everyone will be aware of why the current process cannot continue and why change needs to happen.

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

2. Change

After unfreezing, people need to start looking for a new way of doing things. This happens during the change stage. Going back to the cups, tea bags and coffee machine, you now need to reconsider what places might be best for them and try out different locations until you find the best one, which will make the morning process of using the kitchen a lot easier. Applying this to a company, you need to make sure that the employees understand how this change will benefit them and you need to make sure that you give them enough time to adapt to the change. By assuring this, you also assure that they contribute to the change in a positive way. 

For change to happen successfully, you need to focus on communication and give it time to be grounded. Click To Tweet

3. Freeze

Only when the introduced changes to the company have been totally adopted, will change be completely effective. Applying this to our morning coffee we find that when you get up in the morning and grab your regular breakfast, you don’t think about where in your kitchen you have placed the mugs, coffee or tea bags.

Thinking about where you have placed all the utensils, would take you out of your routine and make you re-evaluate where everything is located in your house and how you act in your kitchen. The reason you don’t think about these things in your everyday life is called freeze mode. This means that you take things for granted and don’t rethink everything. This, which makes humans able to act in everyday life, might make you overlook the bigger picture. Not thinking about everything, frees you up to think about more specific tasks.

Applying it to a company means that by making sure that all the changes the company has incurred are integrated into everyday business. This will give the employees steadiness and confidence when the time for taking decisions comes and will allow them to go more in-depth in more meaningful tasks. Although, it should be looked at closely since when you become too comfortable and confident it can lead to stagnation and procrastination, which is something that you want to avoid. That is why sometimes un-freezing and trying out new things and methods is helpful, but always give it enough time to transit and freeze.

The SMART model

As an addition to the Unfreeze-Change-Freeze model, we find the SMART model, which is one of the most suitable models to follow when setting a goal for your organization. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Based. It is a well-established tool that you can use to plan and achieve your goals, commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept. Below you will find an explanation of each of the letters in SMART.

S for Smart

Your goals should be clear and specific. Otherwise, your employees won’t be able to focus on them nor feel truly motivated to achieve them and you won’t be able to measure them with key performance indicators (KPIs). It is important that the goals are clear for the employees who have to deal with them, and it has to be clear exactly what the KPIs measure. The employees must know what happens in everyday life so that the strategic goals will be built on a common understanding between everyone who is involved. When using KPIs, it is often useful to find out what you want to know and then look at data to find the answers. The KPIs will not matter if they were not measured on something specific and useful. It will also make it easier for you and for your employees to identify a clear plan to achieve the goals.

M for Measurable

It is important to have measurable goals so that you can track your progress and stay motivated. Keeping updated with the progress helps the employees to stay focused, to meet deadlines and to feel excited for being closer to achieving your common goals. One way to make sure everyone is always updated is to use a schedule or calendar that will make it easy to share the progress of the company and each person in real-time.

A for Attainable

Your goals also need to be realistic and attainable. It is important that the strategic goals are achievable, but not too easy to achieve. On one hand, If the goals are too easy to achieve, they will not motivate the employees. But on the other hand, we find that If the goals are not achievable, the motivation to work towards them disappear. When the task is too difficult to achieve, the employees usually give up or get stressed and under-perform.  The goals must also be realistic in the sense that the company is able to achieve them with the available resources. Nothing is more discouraging than striving for a goal that you will never obtain. 

R for Relevant

To succeed with a goal, it is important to ensure that your goal matters to everyone involved and that it also aligns with the company goals. The competences of the employees and their education need to be taken into consideration when delegating tasks so that you make sure everyone is capable of completing the tasks they have received and thereby achieving the goals. To set relevant goals easier, start by asking yourself about the importance of these for your company. What benefits would it bring to your company if these goals get achieved? Would these goals still have the same importance in a month’s time or if it is just a temporary issue?

T for Time based

Every goal needs a target date so that you have a deadline to focus on and something to work towards. Setting a start and endpoint for achieving the goals, allows the company to maintain its priorities and to make sure that not only the short term goals will be achieved, but also the long term goals.

It is usually helpful to not just define what should be achieved at the end of the process but also what should be achieved at different times so that we can see if everything is on track. Setting and monitoring KPIs for this purpose will be helpful for keeping the goals on track and evaluating them.


Research has shown that setting goals motivate employees and that harder to achieve goals increase productivity. Click To Tweet

Research proves that setting goals will help your organization. Setting goals is a delicate process. So when setting your goals, you will need to focus on what you would like to achieve – not on what is acceptable or the minimum. This way of thinking leads to the fact that not reaching your goal also improves 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. By using the theories described in this article, we can say that setting goals for your organization work 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.

To summarize, the best goals are clear, specific and relevant, so that the employees can relate to them and see how their actions affect them. 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 employees nor the employer will give up beforehand. And last but not least, the goals should be time based so that there is a deadline to work towards.

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