Goal – definition and meaning

A goal, in business, describes what a company expects or hopes to accomplish over a specific period. In other words, where it hopes to be at a future date. People commonly use the term ‘business goal‘ with the same meaning. On a personal level, a goal is an idea of a desirable or future result that people envision, plan, and commit to achieving. We commonly endeavor to reach goals over specific periods by setting deadlines.

In sports, a goal consists of two posts and a crossbar, often with a net in between. Competitors in, for example, soccer (UK: football) or hockey try to kick, head, or hit the ball into their respective goals.

Also in sports, the term refers to the score. For example, Team A beat Team B by two goals to one. The players aim to score goals.

This article focuses on the term with its business meaning.

Part of a business plan

Most companies have details on their goals and objectives in their business planA business plan is a formal document that outlines a company’s goals, objectives, strategies, and financial forecasts.

Not only do whole companies have goals, but also departments, employees, customers, and other parts of a commercial enterprise.

Goal - definition and examples vs objectives
A goal is less specific than an objective. In most companies’ business plans, you can see a description of their ‘goals and objectives.’

When somebody agrees with their employer what they would like to achieve in their job, they set goals. As with company goals, the aim is to accomplish the achievements over a specific period.

Employees and employers commonly set goals during appraisals. Appraisals are meetings in which employers and employees discuss employee performance.

According to BusinessDictionary.com, a goal is:

“An observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed time frame.”

A goal vs. an objective

We often hear the term ‘goals and objectives‘ in business. So, we logically assume that the two terms have the same meaning. Although they are very similar, their meanings are not the same.

Knowing what their meanings are can help us use them effectively. In other words, understanding their difference can help us get from where we are to where we want to go.

When we plan our company’s future, we generate a list of things we would like it to reach. These are goals. The steps we take to get there, however, are our objectives.

‘Goal states’ how you want it to be

Let’s suppose you are a member of the board of a company that is making heavy losses. Your goal is to make the company profitable.

However, the goal does not specify what steps the board will take to reach profitability.

‘Objective’ states how you plan to get there

The steps your company plans to take are its objectives. For example, the company may lay off workers and close some branches. It may also stop making and selling its unprofitable or least profitable products.

If you are overweight, your goal might be to lose twenty pounds. Your objectives include details on a diet and exercise regime you plan to follow. In your plan, you will also have a time frame and possibly deadlines.

Video – goal vs. objective

This How to Get Motivated video explains the difference between goals and objectives.