Not Hitting Your Goals? Here’s How to Know If You Should Change Tactics or Strategy

It’s not uncommon to set goals for your business and end up not reaching them. In fact, if you’re never failing to reach your goals, then they’re probably not ambitious enough.

When things don’t go according to plan, you have three main options:

  1. You can switch strategies — that is, the high-level plan you’ve devised to take you to your goal.
  2. You can change your tactics — that is, the specific actions that you take to execute those strategies.
  3. Or you can change the goal itself.

Knowing when to do which is critically important. If you’re struggling to meet the business goals you and your team set for your company, take a deep breath and begin to troubleshoot the process, starting with your tactics.

1. Evaluate your tactics

If you can shift your daily list of actions to more closely align with and support the strategy, you’ll find making those necessary adjustments easier and simpler than changing your entire strategy. So it makes sense to focus your analysis first on your tactics.

First take a look at the alignment, or lack thereof, between your tactics and chosen strategies. Remember that the tactics are specifically actionable tasks, either one-offs or repeatable routines that are assigned to one person for accountability and that are designed to pursue a specific strategy.

So, for example, “posting three updates on our Instagram account each day” by itself isn’t necessarily a solid tactic, even if it’s supposed to be in furtherance of raising brand awareness through a more dynamic and engaging social media presence. Are you sure your audience is active on Instagram? Are you using the right tactics to reach and connect with them? Is each of those three updates offering something of value to that audience?

Next, examine the resources you’ve allocated to these specific tactics. Execution of your tactics doesn’t necessarily have to be flawless to see positive results, but often we miss something obvious that winds up blocking the results we expect. An execution gap might explain why your team fell short — perhaps a key position suddenly became vacant in the middle of the project, or your team realized you were working with bad data. Debrief the path you’ve taken so far to see if any such obstacles might have played a part.

Finally, examine the metrics you’ve assigned to track progress on this goal and the tactics you’re pursuing. Are you tracking the right data points? Does that information show in near real-time how your tactics are getting you closer to your goal? If not, reevaluate and see if you can pinpoint more meaningful metrics, as well as a way to track them reliably.

2. Examine your strategy

The strategies you adopt to hit your goal may also need to be tweaked or changed altogether. If you’ve analyzed your team’s performance on the tactical plan and there’s nothing wrong with the execution there, then the problem may well lie in the strategy. Perhaps it’s no longer viable. Or maybe you’ve overlooked other data that reveals your customers’ needs and interests are evolving. If that’s so, you’ll want to make sure your strategic plans keep up with them.

Evaluate if the assumptions underlying your strategy have changed. For one obvious example, let’s say your goal is to raise revenue by 45% at your restaurant, and your strategy is to bring 100 visitors into your restaurant every day. But an economic downturn hits your region, meaning fewer people go out to dinner, at least for the time being. In that case, macro events overtook developments and changed your ability to realize the goal through these means.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up on the goal itself. Simply rethink the strategy. In the case of our example, you could offer more lunch or dinner deal “specials” to customers, if inflation doesn’t make that unfeasible. Also, maybe you can switch to a focus on delivery, special events or even catering.

3. Take a hard look at the goal itself

If you’ve taken a cold, hard look at both the strategic and the tactical plans without pinpointing an opportunity for making a timely and productive shift, then it’s time to evaluate the goal itself. The problem with your goal may be situational — i.e., it was a valid, realistic goal at one time but events overtook you, and now you need to align with the current environment and market. Or it could be that there’s nothing wrong with the goal itself; you just haven’t fully identified, defined and fleshed it out.

Go back and give your goal a checkup by asking the following questions — and answering them honestly:

  • Is this goal specific? Specific is “$X in revenue, or Y% growth in profit year over year.” Vague is “make more money.”
  • Is it measurable? By what metrics can your progress be tracked?
  • Is your goal achievable? That is, is your goal attainable and realistic both in the absolute sense and in the time you’ve set for its achievement?
  • Is your goal relevant to your business? Does it align with your corporate values and mission statement? Does it get your company closer to where you want it to be, both in your industry and in your community?
  • Finally, is your goal timely? Do you have a clear starting point and target or deadline date?

Work toward the right things

Bringing your goals into closer alignment with your corporate vision, mission and values will help ensure you’re working for the right things. Adjusting your strategies and the tactics to execute those strategies will get you there, as long as you keep track of meaningful metrics and make the necessary adjustments to optimize your results along the way.


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