What's in a Name? Writing Objectives the Right Way
March 14, 2024
What's in a Name? Writing Objectives the Right Way

Welcome to the 20th edition of The Pulse, your bi-weekly newsletter of Insights for Strategy Leaders. And welcome to all of the new subscribers since last week! Let's get into it.

In this edition:

  • What's In A Name? ✏️
  • Elation Nation Video on Objectives 📽️
  • 5 Resources on Objectives 📚
  • Link to previous editions 🔗

What's in a name? ✏️

So, some big news on the personal front: a few weeks ago, my wife and I were fortunate enough to welcome our first child into our family. It’s been quite the whirlwind, but I'm thankful to share that everyone is home and healthy! 💙

As we prepared to welcome our first kiddo into the world, there were so many things for us to think about and do prior to their arrival. Among these, one of the questions we kept getting asked and became a frequent topic of conversation was all about their name.

To say we struggled with this in the beginning would be an understatement. We found ourselves in love with a couple of names, with our favorite changing almost daily. We kept going back and forth on whether the name would fit. Whether we needed to connect it to past family members, or what would happen if one of our friends gave birth before us and chose one of those names!

You might be asking, “So what does all this have to do with Strategy and Operations Leaders?” Candidly, not much.

However, a few weeks ago I received a note from a reader of The Pulse, suggesting that we write an edition focused on How to Name Objectives.

Now, you might see where I’m going with this...

I’m not sure naming a child is quite the same thing, but writing names or titles for Objectives is very much an art and science. 🔬

Oftentimes we see Objectives resemble short novels, attempting to encapsulate the entire problem and purpose statement within the title. Not only can this be really confusing for folks, but it also takes away the power and momentum behind the Objective itself.

Let’s use an example.

If I state that my Objective this quarter is to Enhance Sales Team Efficiency + Enablement, it provides a clear focus for us to rally around. Folks can visualize the tangible problem: the team’s inefficiency, likely stemming from a lack of training.

They can ask questions about it, such as “How will you measure success?” or “Are there particular areas you’re focused on improving?”

But more importantly, they can start to think about how they can help contribute to that Objective, or better yet, whether they should actually be linked to that Objective.

Let’s take it a step further, and play out how to thwart the momentum.

If we write the objective as Enhance Sales Team Efficiency + Enablement by Completing A Two-Day Onsite Curriculum Led by Sales Enablement on May 27th in Which Every Sales Member Will Pass a Test on Our Sales Process and Pricing Sheet, followed by a Certification Class on Demoing Our New Feature Led by the Director of Sales on June 15th with the Intent to Increase Close Rates 3% and Decrease Ramp Time by 30 Days.

Uhhhh….Well, I guess that makes sense.

I know this is an extreme example, but the reality is that this does actually happen.

All of this extra information should be made available on the Objective itself. It absolutely, under no circumstances, needs to be in the name or title.

Not only does it portray a sense of ‘Back off, this Objective is mine!’, but it dictates to folks in a non-collaborative way what they will be doing this quarter. This removes the spirit of collaboration and building consensus on how to best support the Objective.

So what are the rules of thumb when it comes to writing an Objective?

1. More is less.

As Mark Twain famously said, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

It can be challenging to distill complex ideas into a few well-chosen words, but the result is often more impactful. Keep clear - simplicity is key.

2. Apply action to the Objective.

What will you be accomplishing with the Objective? Don’t just put 'Revenue'. Add some intent to what you will be impacting as it relates to Growing Revenue to $10M in ARR.

And this brings up a good point: Should you include the end measurable results in the name?

It depends.

For those Objectives that are driving towards one clear outcome like revenue, then we often recommend including that outcome in the Objective.

Refrain from using outputs!! Always write key results that are outcomes, not outputs, as this is how success will be measured.

Related: The Polarizing Debate Between Outcomes and Outputs

However, for many Objectives, there is more than one Outcome or Key Result being measured. These should be captured as the Outcomes living on the Objective template you leverage for your organization.

This ties into where all of the other information should live that we tried to jam into the name of our Objective. Things like completion date, teams responsible, or Objective owner(s) should live within the template (like Elate).

At Elate, we also ask for a Purpose Statement and related Objectives within the template we provide for companies. The more streamlined the template, the easier it is for everyone to have consistency in building Objectives and playing from the same sheet of music. 🎼

3. Define Your Relationships

Lastly, you'll want to define relationships on your Objectives to connect the dots. (This isn't related to naming your Objective, but since we're here.)

This creates cross-functional transparency around how the Objective is related to other Objectives and rolls up into those top priorities set at the organization level.

So there you have it. While it might seem like a small thing, there is a lot that goes into the name of an Objective, and it matters a great deal.

Let your Objectives serve as the rallying points that bring folks across your organization together, rather than dissertations that leave folks boxed out and confused.

Elation Nation Video on Objectives 📽️

Since we're on the topic of Objectives, I thought I'd share this video from Chad Flynn! Chad talks about how Pearl Meyer has been able to "really get crisp on what the most important Objectives are to be focusing on" with Elate, particularly after offsite planning.

Thanks for being a part of Elation Nation, Chad!

5 resources on Objectives:

That's all for today... have a great rest of your week.