6 goal-setting frameworks for business

Breaking barriers, building dreams: explore 6 goal-setting frameworks for business that are not garbage.

Author's Photo
Dmytro Shcherbyna
OKRs joined the club of AGILE methodologies.
Everyone uses it, but very few make the real profit out of it

If you’re here for a quick win, then use Five Ws. It’s the simplest one and you probably already follow it to some extent. Add more consistency and you will be amazed by the amount of finished work on time by your team. Five Ws gets its roots from problem solving, but it flawlessly integrates into the goal-setting realm.

Five Ws

Every goal should answer the following questions:

  • Who? – assign the responsible
  • What? – describe what should be done and the desired outcome / success criteria
  • When? – set a deadline
  • Where? – most of the time this one can be omitted if you’re in tech
  • Why? – give a reasoning, so it’s easier to connect the dots

E.g.: “Conduct a research on goal-setting frameworks, so we can implement a new approach in reaching our objectives and become a more efficient team. Assignee: John Smith. Deadline: next Monday EOD”

Now, when you stayed for longer, let’s deep dive into the goal-setting mastery.

Why you absolutely need a goal-setting framework in your business

At some point the nature of your work will become more intricate and you will start looking for a more structured approach to reaching your goals. What successfully worked before now requires a systemic upgrade. A usual mix of tasks, goals, projects, and initiatives will be replaced by a more sophisticated approach to raise both the effectiveness and efficiency of work.

To give a bold start to your desire to get a goal-setting upgrade, I’d suggest to not reinvent the wheel and adopt one of the well-known frameworks, and tailor it to your own needs later.

A quick overview of the market

If you google “goal-setting framework”, you’ll get hundreds of articles where people just collect a bunch of techniques and approaches that simply doesn’t work in the business realm. E.g. “One-word goals”. I’ve never heard anyone successfully using one word to describe a goal. Sometimes there may be a dozen documents created just to describe a single goal, how possibly can you fit the whole context into a single word?

There are a bunch of things that sound cool, but they were made for fun, are inefficient or hard to adopt. Would you fly on one of these?

Impossible planes
"Wow, look at this cool framework, let's try it out!"

There are a few frameworks that actually work, but their adoption often leads to abandonment because they lack tools, methodological background, wide-spread usage, or community support.

Abandoned plane
"We tried it for some time, but it didn’t work out for us"

What is a good fit for business

But let’s get back to what works. You’re here to see the best of the best, so meet the TOP-5 goal setting frameworks for business that do work.

Super fighter jet
"On time, on budget, exactly what we wanted!"


Core principles

OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results. The modern golden standard. The idea is to set an Objective that is ambitious and motivating, which sets a purpose of the achievement. Then you accompany it with 3-5 Key Results, which are specific, measurable, and quantifiable outcomes that will be used to track the achievement of the Objective.

OKRs help in maintaining focus, alignment, and commitment across the organization. They promote transparency, as everyone understands the ultimate objectives and their personal role in achieving them. This framework enables organizations to move quickly, adapt to changes, and scale by setting both ambitious targets, and clearly defined and measurable outcomes.

Important things to be aware of

It's crucial that OKRs are realistic, achievable, and aligned with the organization's vision. Over-ambitious or misaligned OKRs can lead to frustration and decreased motivation. Regular reviews and adjustments are very important to stay on track – I’d say this is the most important factor that may lead to a complete failure in OKRs implementation.


Objective: raise productivity and work satisfaction in our team with better goal management
Key Results:

  1. Define a criteria for a goal-setting framework with 10 items ordered by priority for further research
  2. Conduct a research on goal-setting frameworks and pick the best 6 according to the criteria
  3. Arrange a voting and select the winner. 90% of employees should vote
  4. Implement a new approach within 3 months. 90% of the employees should be using it after 3 months of the implementation
  5. Gain +30% tasks completed on time in 6 months after the implementation


Core principles

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Goals set using this framework are well-defined, with clear metrics, realistic, aligned with broader objectives, and have a specific timeline. Ideally, each one of your goals is SMART.

I’ve never seen this framework to be a standard, but everyone always referred to it when the goals lack some critical information such as a deadline. SMART is an indicator that the goal has enough context to be turned into a successful achievement.

Important things to be aware of

It’s very inconvenient to manually test each goal for matching the SMART requirements. If you really want to make SMART a standard, then you’d rather want a software that will automatically highlight how the goal can be improved to become a SMART goal at the very beginning of SMART implementation.


Goal 1: Conduct a research on goal-setting frameworks and pick TOP-6 based on the 10-item criteria. Deadline: next Monday EOD.
Goal 2: Arrange a voting and select the winner from the TOP-6 goal-setting frameworks. 90% of employees should vote. Deadline: next Tuesday EOD.
Goal 3: Implement a new goal-setting approach. 90% of the employees should be using it after 3 months of the implementation. Deadline: in 3 months.

Backward Goals

Core principles

The Backward Goals framework starts with the end in mind. You first define the desired outcome and then trace the steps backward to the present. This method is particularly effective in creating a clear and structured path to the goal.

Backward Goals are excellent for strategic planning and complex projects where the end goal is clear but the path to get there isn't. This framework helps in visualizing the complete journey from the desired outcome back to the current status, ensuring every step contributes directly to the end goal. It's especially useful for breaking down large, ambitious projects into smaller, actionable steps.

Important things to be aware of

While effective in mapping out a clear path to a goal, this framework can be challenging if the end goal is too vague or if the steps required are not well-understood. Regular reassessment and adaptation of the backward plan might be necessary as new information and challenges arise.


Goal: Implement a new goal-setting framework within the organization to enhance productivity.
Backward Steps:

  1. Measure the increase in productivity and employee satisfaction 6 months after implementation.
  2. Ensure 90% of employees are using the new framework 3 months post-implementation.
  3. Select and implement the chosen goal-setting framework based on employee voting.
  4. Arrange a voting process for employees to select the best framework from a shortlist.
  5. Shortlist the top 6 goal-setting frameworks based on research and criteria.
  6. Conduct thorough research on different goal-setting frameworks and define criteria for evaluation.

Goal Pyramid

Core principles

The Goal Pyramid is a visual framework that organizes goals into a hierarchical structure. It starts with the broad, overarching goals at the top and breaks them down into more specific, actionable steps at lower levels. This method ensures alignment and coherence among different levels of goals, from strategic to tactical.

In business, the Goal Pyramid is excellent for mapping out how individual tasks and short-term objectives align with and contribute to the broader, long-term goals of the organization. It aids in prioritizing tasks and ensures that employees at all levels understand how their work fits into the bigger picture.

Important things to be aware of

A potential challenge with the Goal Pyramid is ensuring that all levels are appropriately aligned and that lower-level goals actually support the top-level objectives. Misalignment can lead to wasted effort and resources.


Top-Level Goal: get an efficiency improvement of the individual performance.
Mid-Level Goals: implement a new goal-setting framework, arrange a voting and pick a goal-setting framework.
Lower-Level Goals: define a criteria for selecting the framework, conduct a research on goal-setting frameworks

Locke and Latham’s 5 Principles

Core principles

Based on goal-setting theory, Locke and Latham’s 5 Principles focus on Clarity, Challenge, Commitment, Feedback, and Task Complexity. These principles emphasize that goals should be clear and challenging, commitment should be secured, continuous feedback is essential, and the complexity of tasks must be taken into account.

These principles are effective in enhancing employee motivation and performance. By setting clear and challenging goals, securing commitment, providing regular feedback, and appropriately managing task complexity, organizations can improve their goal achievement rates and overall efficiency.

Important things to be aware of

Overly complex or unrealistic goals can demotivate employees. Ensuring that goals are challenging yet achievable, and providing support and resources to handle complex tasks, are crucial for the success of this framework.


Goal: Conduct a thorough research on goal-setting frameworks, so we can pick and implement a new approach in reaching our objectives and become a more efficient team. Provide a daily update in Slack. Assignee: John Smith. Deadline: next Monday EOD.

Sum it up

You may noticed that these frameworks have a lot in common – all 6 can be combined together! Get the best out of them and come up with your own goal-setting standard that will work for your organization and people.

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