Business & Management

How to Set Stretch Goals?

I’ve been reading Ram Charan’s latest book “Know-How: The 8 skills that separate people who perform from those who don’t.” Know-How is a well organized and well researched collection of topics on effective leadership. It’s a must read for every practicing manager.

I like what Ram Charan says about stretch goals:

Stretch goals show people that they can accomplish more than they thought they could. The most common kind of stretch goal is tactical in nature. It seeks to achieve incremental improvements by encouraging the people who work for you to work harder, to become more vigilant and anticipatory and to be on the alert to achieve higher operational results in a shorter period than they thought they could. More rarely leaders employ stretch goals that are strategic. They require people to think about what they’re doing in a radically different way, not just to work harder and be more alert.

When I look back, I find that most of my stretch goals were of the tactical type. For example, completing a coding task that was estimated at five days in three days by working harder. But adopting extreme programming concepts such as pair programming – to achieve much better results – would have been a strategic stretch goal, because it requires a paradigm shift in thought.


Stretch goals can fire up people’s imaginations and bring energy to the organization, but only if they are do-able. The point is not to get people to work harder. Rather, it is to get people to do things differently and thus raise the capability of the organization.

What’s the scene at your workplace? Are you set tactical stretch goals or strategic stretch goals?

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