Realistic vs Unrealistic Goals in Business

Goals are essential to measure the return on investment for resources and activities, and to track the progress of a startup’s journey to world domination. But why is this such a tricky task?

When it comes to goal-setting, you’re faced with a somewhat daunting binary. On the one side of the coin, realistic goals stare back at with their earnest eyes, preaching about the dangers of unfettered fancies. “It’s safer to be an accountant than a rockstar”, as your parents might say.

On the other side are your flamboyantly unrealistic goals. They call like sirens from the other side of comfort, with the odds stacked against them. But they keep you focused on a positive trajectory, and they allow you to dream. Are unrealistic goals a bad thing? Do they do harm, or do they predict success?

The cultural impact of unrealistic goals

Whilst there is agreement on the value of setting goals, the statistics are less than favourable when it comes to achieving them. In this Workbook study, it was uncovered that companies fail to achieve their goals 70% of the time because people don’t feel committed and engaged in the achievement. The last thing you want to do is set goals that further contribute to this culture.

At a startup, morale and driving ambition are both key. However, if a team is continuously missing targets because those targets are set out of reach… it’s obvious that this is damaging.

The problem is highlighted smartly by Ted Harro in HuffPost.

He outlines three reasons why unrealistic goals foster an unhelpful culture of failure:

  1. Failure becomes excusable: If goal-setting is not precise, you open the door to excuses for not reaching them. There are obvious scapegoats for why the goals are not met.
  2. Failure becomes acceptable: If the failure to reach the goals that you have set becomes easily-condonable, your company can quickly slip into a culture of mediocrity. A glibness sets in and it comes to feel communally irrelevant whether or not you reach your targets.
  3. Failure becomes expected: After failure has become acceptable, the next obvious and damaging step is to expect it. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of being part of an environment like this, you may recognize the feeling of a kind of perpetual failure deja vu. “Here we go again,” your team keeps saying to themselves.

When you add this up, combined with a consistent approach over time, goals start to mean nothing and motivation goes out of the window. Before you know it, there is a culture of failure. New recruits entering your business environment are quickly swallowed by the vortex.

Believe it or not, this is not enough reason to dispense with unrealistic goals completely. Here are the pros and cons unrealistic goals…

Realistic vs Unrealistic Goals in Business

Goals are essential to measure the return on investment for resources and activities, and to track the progress of a startup’s journey to world domination. But why is this such a tricky task?

When it comes to goal-setting, you’re faced with a somewhat daunting binary. On the one side of the coin, realistic goals stare back at with their earnest eyes, preaching about the dangers of unfettered fancies. “It’s safer to be an accountant than a rockstar”, as your parents might say.

On the other side are your flamboyantly unrealistic goals. They call like sirens from the other side of comfort, with the odds stacked against them. But they keep you focused on a positive trajectory, and they allow you to dream. Are unrealistic goals a bad thing? Do they do harm, or do they predict success?

The cultural impact of unrealistic goals

Whilst there is agreement on the value of setting goals, the statistics are less than favourable when it comes to achieving them. In this Workbook study, it was uncovered that companies fail to achieve their goals 70% of the time because people don’t feel committed and engaged in the achievement. The last thing you want to do is set goals that further contribute to this culture.

At a startup, morale and driving ambition are both key. However, if a team is continuously missing targets because those targets are set out of reach… it’s obvious that this is damaging.

The problem is highlighted smartly by Ted Harro in HuffPost.

He outlines three reasons why unrealistic goals foster an unhelpful culture of failure:

  1. Failure becomes excusable: If goal-setting is not precise, you open the door to excuses for not reaching them. There are obvious scapegoats for why the goals are not met.
  2. Failure becomes acceptable: If the failure to reach the goals that you have set becomes easily-condonable, your company can quickly slip into a culture of mediocrity. A glibness sets in and it comes to feel communally irrelevant whether or not you reach your targets.
  3. Failure becomes expected: After failure has become acceptable, the next obvious and damaging step is to expect it. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of being part of an environment like this, you may recognize the feeling of a kind of perpetual failure deja vu. “Here we go again,” your team keeps saying to themselves.

When you add this up, combined with a consistent approach over time, goals start to mean nothing and motivation goes out of the window. Before you know it, there is a culture of failure. New recruits entering your business environment are quickly swallowed by the vortex.

Believe it or not, this is not enough reason to dispense with unrealistic goals completely. Here are the pros and cons unrealistic goals…