Ultimate Guide to Outcome Based Goal Setting: Part 1

We often mistake projects or daily activities for “goals” when quarterly or yearly goal setting time comes around.

We’re in workplaces where it’s okay to meander through the work day, unclear about what we’re being measured on and what we’re supposed to be delivering. Workplaces where employees fill out their goal setting worksheets the week before performance appraisal time (or frantically review them to see what the hell you wrote six months ago).

We’re in work environments where HR sends out email after email reminding us to complete our goal-setting worksheets, and we move that activity to the bottom of our list. The urgency to set measurable goals in a traditional work environment rarely exists because using time as a measure of loyalty, dedication and good work, in most cases, wins out over evaluation of the actual work.

Enter… Outcome-Based Goal Setting.

I wanted to share with you the steps we take our clients at CultureRx through when it comes to identifying goals and establishing measurable results. This article is from the goal setting portion of our Building a Performance-Based Work Culture ebook. You can go through this step-by-step  guide with your team with the included goal-setting worksheet.

Outcome-based goal setting gets everyone aligned first, before you even begin to think about your individual goal. This way, creating measurable results is effective and achievable. This framework is outcome-based thinking, and generates an environment where performance is managed on a continuous basis. That means all the time, not just at the yearly performance review meeting.

Here are the 5 questions that everyone needs to be able to answer in order to be part of a dynamic performance-based organization:

  1. What is the ultimate outcome?
  2. Who is the ultimate customer?
  3. What are we doing that is enabling the ultimate outcome?
  4. What are we doing that’s not?
  5. How will we measure success?

Ask yourself: does everyone on your team or in your organization know what ultimate outcome you are trying to achieve?

To adopt outcome-based thinking and position everyone to be accountable for driving measurable results, take your team through the following exercise.



Get the functional team together and work toward coming to consensus on the answer to the question:

What is our ultimate outcome as an organization? Why do we exist?

Have each person write down what they think it is on a piece of paper. Some will struggle to regurgitate the mission and others might remember the vision. All of the answers will likely be different – maybe extremely or slightly so, but they certainly won’t be 100% alike.


Therein lies your first (and most critical) challenge: the outcome simply isn’t a part of your employees’ DNA. It’s not what makes people wake up in the morning raring to go… yet.


Start with your mission statement. With the mission statement in front of everyone, ask: If we do this, then what? (The ultimate outcome needs to be simple and compelling. People will be proud to say it).


Mission Statement: It is the mission of ABC Car Gadgets to provide personal vehicle owners and enthusiasts with the vehicle-related products and knowledge that fulfill their wants and needs at the right price. Our friendly, professional staff will help inspire, educate and problem solve for our customers.

That’s a great statement and, if true, the customer will be happy and the company will make money. However it’s quite a mouthful and not something you can easily spit out or rally around. Who gets up in the morning and says to themselves, “Today I’m going to provide personal vehicle owners and enthusiasts with the vehicle-related products and knowledge that fulfills their wants and needs at the right price… Hooray!”

Make it real by asking the question again “If we do this, then what?” Keep asking until the outcome is distilled to its simplest form.


If we actually do what the mission states, then what?


Facilitate discussion to distill to its simplest form:

The customer will be happy, because they’ll have what they need to go places. The cars will work so people can get around.

We help people go places.

I help people go places.


Your ultimate outcome:
I (we) help people go places. 

In the next post we’ll talk about Step 2, Team Exercises for identifying the Ultimate Customer.

How do you focus on the ultimate outcomes for your organization?

Posted in ,

Jody Thompson

Jody Thompson, along with her partner Cali Ressler, is the Founder of CultureRx and co-creator of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Jody is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and bestselling author. She has been featured on the covers of BusinessWeek, Workforce Management Magazine, HR Magazine, Hybrid Mom Magazine, HR Executive Magazine, and the New York Times. You can find her on Linkedin.

Reader Interactions


  1. j says

    Your example mission statement leaves me with an empty mind. As a business owner in the past to make people happy is aloof and always different for different people. Often times what a customer wants and what is business practice and financially practical are two different things. I have told people it isn’t up to me to make you happy …as I have learned so many times in so many self help improvement classes you have to make yourself happy…if you see the world as dying then for you it is.

    All this touchy feeling talk just confuses me, and I am sure as an employee it adds more murkiness to what am I being evaluated on and how can I change that. If you never said your job is to first restore all system related outages, to restore minor service issues and then to work on deployment of new projects that are assigned to you. In all of that I expect you to take at least one class every quarter to improve your current understanding of the industry you are working in. Those approved courses can be found on the company web site under IT courses.

    Ok now I know how and when I am going to do that I can now work on and commit to.

    As an employee I don’t want to own a process or a business I want an area of responsibility.



Pin It on Pinterest