Your organization's broader goals can't be achieved all at once. You don't have the luxury of saying, "We want to radically improve our lead generation numbers. Everybody get on it!" and expecting your company to just figure it out from there.
You can't exactly wing business-wide objectives. They have to come together piece by piece — broken up into smaller milestones that ultimately amount to the big-picture you're chasing.
Those individual pieces are most commonly referred to as operational objectives. Here, we'll take a closer look at what that term means, get a feel for how to prioritize them effectively, and see some examples of what they might look like in practice.
What are operational objectives?
Operational objectives are attainable, action-oriented, short-term goals organizations set and accomplish as a means of partially achieving larger, long-term objectives. They're typically comprised of specific daily, weekly, or monthly tasks that — when executed together — contribute to a successful broader goal.
Operational objectives are often confused with strategic objectives — longer-term, organizational goals that can guide an operations team's immediate plans and actions. Strategic objectives aren't specific enough to reasonably and pointedly guide day-to-day tasks on their own.
For instance, a strategic objective could be something like, "We want to generate more online sales through an improved ecommerce experience." That goal is probably too broad to dictate definitive, achievable actions on a daily basis.
That's where operational objectives come in — they represent the more bite-sized tasks that ultimately make that strategic vision come true. In the case of the "ecommerce experience" example, some operational objectives that support the broader goal might be retooling how your shopping cart feature is structured, taking the strides to accept more brands of major credit cards, and setting up an infrastructure that supports overnight shipping.
Prioritizing Operational Objectives
As I mentioned, sales operations teams are generally tasked with setting long-term strategic goals for their organizations. But those broader, strategic objectives can only be attained by being broken up into more concrete, achievable pieces — often completed in sequence.
Operational objectives need to be clearly defined and delegated to specific teams or employees. They should never be abstract or assigned ambiguously. If you set an operational objective, there needs to be a responsible party behind it — operating with clear expectations and guidelines.
Operational objectives have to be SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. They also need to be carefully tracked and monitored. Operational objectives can be set across virtually every facet of your business. Let's take a look at what they can look like in different departments.
Operational Objectives Examples
Strategic Objective: Making Production More Cost-Effective
If you're broader strategic objective is to cut production costs without sacrificing too much productivity, some operational objectives you might set could be:
- Speaking to other vendors to see if you can get lower-priced raw materials
- Revamping employee training to increase efficiency
- Retooling scheduling
- Thoroughly examining current equipment to see if any of it is out-of-date or due to be upgraded
Strategic Objective: Improving Lead Generation
If your broader strategic objective was to improve lead generation, some operational objectives you might set could be:
- Finding discounts or lower-cost options for your lead generation tech stack
- Starting a blog and working up to a specific publishing cadence
- Developing a certain number of content offers to place in your blog posts
- A/B testing call to action copy to find language that converts well
- Starting a YouTube channel, populated with a specific number of informational videos
- Recording a certain number of webinars
- Establishing a certain number of co-marketing partnerships
Strategic Objective: Improving Sales Rep Onboarding
If you were interested in accelerating and bolstering your organization's onboarding processes for sales reps, your operational objectives might be:
- Finding and implementing a conversational intelligence software for managers to shadow calls more effectively
- Set a systematic agenda for training that can be replicated every week
- Determining how to structure breakout groups for discussion
- Setting standards for relationship building with reps
- Picking a training methodology and coming up with core tenets for onboarding
Strategic objectives don't happen arbitrarily. They represent a sum of smaller, dedicated tasks that any department trying to achieve bigger-picture goals needs to stay on top of.
If you're looking to make good on broader strategic objectives, you'll likely need to to set operational objectives to get there — so it serves you to have an understanding of what they might look like.