What to Do When You Don't Complete Your Goal

If you don’t complete your goal at the end of a quarter in Khorus, you might wonder: What should I do with my goal now? In addition to asking yourself that question, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it a goal that you need to continue to work on into the new quarter?
  • How much work toward the goal do you have left?
  • Will it take another couple months to get to where you want to be or will it only take a few more days?

Goals are bigger chunks of work—not the smaller to-dos we have. If you didn’t quite complete your goal and the remaining work is only a few days’ worth, it probably doesn’t make sense to create a goal for the new quarter. But if it will take another couple months or so, it probably does make sense to create a goal for the new quarter.

As you think about what your goals should be for the new quarter, consider a couple key reasons for creating a goal. Are these true about your goals?

  • You want to establish that this was one of your priorities.
  • You and your manager created agreement that this was how you were contributing to a department- or team-level goal.
What if the goal isn’t a priority in the new quarter, but I will work on it if I have time?

Generally, goals should be limited to your priorities: goals should be the focal points for the given quarter and by them, we know if we were successful. If there’s work to be done that’s not vital to team success, it makes sense to not have a goal for that work.

What if my manager doesn’t have a team- or department-goal related to my goal for the new quarter?

When that happens, it’s important to have a 1:1 discussion with your manager about your goals that were missed last quarter and what you should do about them. Perhaps you didn’t quite make the goal, but the core of the work is complete and now it’s time to focus on something else. The majority of your goals should be contributing to a team-, department-, or company-level goal. Or, perhaps by bringing the missed goal to your manager’s attention, (s)he will decide to create a team-level goal to denote it as a department priority.

I missed some goals—I’m not sure I’m into formal goal setting.

Missing your goal can be unsettling. You might feel it makes you look like you’re doing a bad job. But here are a few things you want to think about at the end of the quarter when finalize your goals:

Start with another look at your goal measurement.

  • Why did I not achieve the goal based on my measurement of success?
  • Do my manager and I disagree about the results I achieved? If we do, was my measurement ambiguous? How could it have been clearer?
  • Did I set the bar too high?
  • Did I choose the right metric? (E.g., in sales, maybe we should have chosen GPM over bookings; in customer support, maybe we should have focused on reducing the number of replies it takes to resolve an issue instead of pushing positive scores on feedback surveys.)

A lot of the times when we miss a goal, it’s because we have some room to improve in setting our measurement: what we define as success for the goal and what are our expectations are about getting to success.

You missed your goal, but how early on did you begin giving weekly updates a Red Likelihood? The communication is just as important as the work itself: sometimes things happen that are outside of your control, but you’re always able to communicate when you see a goal getting off track. If you raised attention to problems early on in the quarter, you’re delivering real value.

It’s not just about the goal outcome but also your communication about the work that was done. What’s the Final Quality of the goal? Consider these possible outcome and Final Quality combinations.

  • Achieved but low Quality: I achieved my goal, but here’s something you should know.
  • Not achieved but high Quality: I didn’t achieve the goal, but here’s some good news.
  • Achieved with high Quality: I achieved the goal and the Final Quality is great.
  • Not achieved with low Quality: I didn’t achieve the goal, and here’s where it all went wrong.

Instead of only focusing on the outcome, whether you achieved the goal, consider your Final Quality, your qualitative insight and the value that brings to your team and organization.