Emma Burt Helping product teams to succeed through consultancy and training. www.playinthegrey.co.uk

How to set and accomplish long-term goals (with example)

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Long Term Goals Example Strategies

Have you ever stopped and thought, “Why am I doing this?” Stepping back and interrogating your intentions can help you arrive at valuable insights into your decision-making process.

As a product manager, having a clear vision for your product is crucial for success. Long-term goals are an essential component of this vision, providing a roadmap for the future and helping to guide decision-making and prioritization.

In this guide, we’ll explore the importance of setting long-term goals, the different types of goals to consider, and strategies for achieving those goals.

Table of contents

What are long-term goals?

Long-term goals are a set of outcomes that you hope to deliver over an extended period of time. These represent major accomplishments for your product and key developments for your team. Many of these are essential for the success of your product.

Long-term goals differ from other types of planning because of the time and patience involved. As the name suggests, long-term goals take several years or more to complete. Because of this,you should ensure that your long-term goals directly align with your overarching vision for your product.

Types of long-term goals

Long-term goals can take many forms, depending on your product and business objectives. These may include revenue targets, market share growth, customer satisfaction, or other KPIs that align with your overall strategy. By setting specific, measurable, and achievable goals, you can create a roadmap for the future and keep your team aligned on priorities.

For example, your vision could be to be the most trusted provider of a particular product. You decide to define success as a CSAT score of 85 percent, a 10 percent increase in market share, and winning three industry awards.

Now you need to consider whether these particular metrics are an effective way to define success in the long run. Ask yourself whether these are just vanity metrics.

Within your team, encourage a debate about how to track your progress toward long-term goals. People will have varying opinions as to what is and isn’t important. As a PM, you should facilitate this conversation and push your teams towards choosing the long-term goals that make the most sense.

Benefits of setting long-term goals

Setting long-term goals improves alignment and focus, creating a sense of purpose and direction. Additionally, having long-term goals in place helps motivate teams and stakeholders, providing a sense of accomplishment as progress is made towards achievement.

Long-term goals should help drive the behavior you need from your team. Prioritization, at all levels, should consider what you are aiming to achieve. When done well, I’ve seen teams use long-term goals to guide discussions when they are debating what to achieve in a quarter, and what to prioritize for a sprint.

The focus you create with long-term goals can also be turned into momentum. In effect, you take away some of the mental load teams face. It answers the “why” and frees up space to look at how.

Long-term goal example

There are many real-world examples of companies that have set and achieved long-term goals, but few have been as successful as Amazon. Its long-term goal of becoming the world’s largest online retailer led to the company’s focus on customer experience and fulfillment.

When Amazon first launched in 1994, its long-term goals were focused on disrupting the traditional retail industry and becoming the world’s largest online bookstore. The initial long-term goals of Amazon can be summarized as follows:

  1. Become the biggest bookstore — Amazon’s primary goal was to offer an extensive selection of books to customers worldwide. It aimed to provide a vast inventory that exceeded what physical bookstores could offer, creating a comprehensive online bookstore
  2. Provide an exceptional customer experience —  The company strived to differentiate itself by prioritizing customer satisfaction. Their long-term goal was to deliver an unparalleled shopping experience, including fast and reliable shipping, personalized recommendations, and excellent customer service
  3. Expand into other product categories   While Amazon began as a bookstore, its long-term vision extended beyond books. Founder Jeff Bezos envisioned expanding into various product categories to create an online marketplace where customers could find almost anything they needed
  4. Build customer trust and loyalty — Establishing trust with customers was a fundamental long-term goal for Amazon. They aimed to build a reputation for reliability, competitive pricing, and convenient shopping to foster customer loyalty and repeat business
  5. Leverage technology and innovation — Amazon sought to leverage technology and embrace innovation to streamline operations and improve the customer experience. Their long-term goal was to continually push the boundaries of e-commerce and set new industry standards

It’s important to note that over time, Amazon’s long-term goals evolved and expanded beyond their initial focus on books. They successfully transitioned into a multi-category online retailer and expanded into other areas, such as cloud computing (Amazon Web Services) and entertainment (Amazon Prime Video), demonstrating their ability to adapt and pursue new long-term objectives.

Strategies for achieving long-term goals

Achieving long-term goals requires careful planning and execution. To set and achieve your long-term goals you need to think about the systems and processes that help you get there, as well as the goals themselves.

As I briefly mentioned before, involving cross-functional teams in the planning process is a key attribute of success. For one, people don’t like being told what to do, so by involving them in goal setting you can create more buy-in. You may also need to consider your wider stakeholder group and how much support you need from them.

Long-term goals can be hard to work toward when you have to figure out what it means for your daily operations. This is why breaking down goals into smaller, achievable objectives, can be helpful.

The most common approach to this is using objectives and key results (OKRs). John Doerr talks about the importance of OKRs in his book Measure what matters where he tells stories of multiple companies implementing them in their own way for success.

I’m sure many of you have had that experience of a performance review where you sit down and look back at your objectives for the year, only to find that they are no longer relevant, or you cannot remember what you’ve done to progress towards them. This is why tracking progress on a regular cadence and adjusting goals as needed is important.

Companies who use the OKR method set quarterly OKRs and review progress monthly. Then each quarter, and certainly each year, the long term goals are debated and adjusted as needed.

Challenges for long-term goals

While long-term goals can be valuable, there are also common challenges and pitfalls to be aware of. Sometimes, a visionary goal can become unrealistic because the market changes, or the assumptions you made prove not to be true.

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Failing to receive buy-in from stakeholders is another challenge. Goals drive behavior and without support from all those who contribute, you will fail to drive the behavior you want.

Finally, failing to adjust goals based on changing market conditions makes them unachievable and undermines the benefits of having them. To avoid any of these pitfalls, it’s important to involve all relevant stakeholders in the planning process and to be open to adjusting goals as needed.

Final thoughts

Long-term goals are an essential component of product management, guiding the roadmap for the future and helping to guide decision-making and prioritization. By setting specific, measurable, and achievable goals, you can improve alignment and focus, motivate teams and stakeholders, drive certain behaviors, and ultimately achieve success for your product.

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Emma Burt Helping product teams to succeed through consultancy and training. www.playinthegrey.co.uk

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