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I have always felt that one of the most important skill-sets that a person can have is the ability to set goals and achieve them. Goals are essential for establishing direction, defining actions, and measuring progress. Similarly, it is critical that businesses be able to plan and execute.

Over the years I’ve had many discussions on this topic and it continues to be an area of challenge for both individuals and organizations.

According to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers Survey of 200 companies in 30 countries, only 2.5% of these companies had 100% of their projects come in on time, within budget, to scope, and delivering the right business benefits. Whether you term it project planning and management or goal setting and achievement, this study demonstrates that 97.5% of the time we get it wrong in some way. It is obviously an area at which we need to improve, so here are some hints that I hope will help you be even more successful with your goal planning and execution:

1. In defining your goal, make sure it is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistically High and Time-based). Also, make sure it is documented in a form that is easy for you and others to use.

2. Confirm that the goal is in ALIGNMENT with your individual desires and the business’s mission. If not properly aligned, the project will get off track as competing objectives clash.

3. Write out the primary REWARDS of accomplishing the goal or project. This will help you stay on task when you encounter bumps in the road, frustrations increase, motivation wanes and talk of "why are we working so hard on this anyway?" surface.

4. Write out the key CONSEQUENCES of not accomplishing the goal. These are the repercussions, personal and professional, if you are not successful.

Note: People normally do things either to gain a benefit or to avoid a loss. The rewards and consequences should give you powerful incentive to accomplish your goals. The biggest reason that people don’t achieve their goals is a LACK of COMMITMENT. If you are unable to list meaningful rewards and consequences, then revisit your goal. Maybe it’s the wrong goal or just not important enough right now to focus time and resources on.

5. Before you begin work, list every OBSTACLE that comes to mind. Don’t skip over anything. If you have difficulty generating a list of obstacles, then ask, "If this goal is so important, why haven’t I already accomplished it?" Writing down every obstacle that stands between you and success will reduce uncertainty and increase your confidence.

6. Identify possible SOLUTIONS to consider. Strive to develop a number of solutions for each obstacle, so you have the opportunity to select the most effective solution for the situation.

7. Take ACTION. Fear and laziness are enemies of achievement. Stay focused and committed to your goal and make adjustments along the way as appropriate.

If it’s as important as you think it is, then nothing should stand in your way of accomplishing your goal. Your life will be more rewarding as you achieve your goals, and your successes will motivate you to strive for even more and to reach levels that you may not have believed you could attain.

"Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan." — Tom Landry, past football coach of the Dallas Cowboys