1. Start with who your “customers” are

  • Identifying customers is the essence of the goal setting process.
  • Your key customers are the people who are vital for the purposes of your job.
  • We can define customers as the people or groups/teams to whom you provide products, services, information or processes.
  • They can be internal or external to the company

The following examples may help you:

Office Administrator:

Sales Representative:


Many people with whom the employee interacts are potential customers and may receive occasional outputs (Products, Services or Information). They are important but focus on the key people who receive outputs that are vital for their success or are the main recipients of the outputs that the employee provides.


2. Define What the Outputs Are

Identifying the customer helps to ensure that the correct Objectives and Outputs with appropriate weight is allocated to the employee.

  • Outputs help us to focus on what the customer wants from us.
  • Generally, customers want an end product from us. They are less concerned about what we have to do (activities) to provide it to them.  What they do care about is that you deliver the output and also meet their definition of quality.  Your stakeholder will be concerned not only with what you provide but also how you do it.
  • Knowing your outputs helps you to plan your year and also to manage your diary on a monthly, weekly and daily basis.

Typically, outputs can be derived from the cycle of the job which in simple terms could be described as the following basic process model.

Basic Process Model

There may be preparation and execution but what is the end result?

Objective should be primarily focused on outputs. An example is that a person who is responsible for chasing money owed to the company would have the output “Outstanding Accounts Paid”

A sales rep may have “Sales Target Achieved”

A Project Manager may have the output “Project Executed”

Notice that we have not said anything yet about how well this should be done. That will come shortly when we look at measures


There are normally 5 to 8 outputs but there could be more or less.

The Output can be also expressed as a performance objective e.g.:

  • Ensure outstanding accounts are paid
  • Achieve Sales targets
  • Execute Project

  • Every output must have a customer.
  • Only list the outputs that the employee is accountable for.
  • Outputs should be about 2 or 3 words long.
  • Distinguish between key outputs (about 5) and routine outputs. Routine outputs are important but usually have a common recurrence.
  • Some outputs seem similar, e.g. reports. Try to distinguish between them by doing the following:
    • Only list the outputs relevant for the financial year or shorter term.
    • List outputs that need special attention as performance goals.
    • Your outputs must relate to key business goals and customer needs.
    • Outputs are within your power or influence to produce, provide, or deliver.
    • Your outputs relate to special projects, as well as to your primary job(s).


3. Describe the Measures (KPI’s) in detail

  • KPI’s/Measures describe the output that you will provide.
  • They are provided by your customer and describe quality from their point of view. Some customers do need your help to clarify what they need. To guide you, KPI’s/Measures should answer some of the following questions:
    • How many? (Specific quantity produced)
    • How often? (Twice per month; weekly)
    • Having what features? (Must be upgradeable to meet ISO 9002 standards)
    • Meeting what standards or guidelines? (Must meet corporate identity guidelines)
    • By when? (Last working Friday of each month)
    • At what cost? (Not exceed R10 000)
    • With what impact? (Reduce wastage by 10%)
    • Developed with whom? (Developed with Financial Accountant)
    • Approved by whom? (Sales plan approved by Manager before implementation)
    • How implemented? (Only after discussion and agreement of team members)
    • Related to what strategies, plans, other events? (must comply with company policy guidelines)
  • KPI’s/Measures can be subjective, i.e. the customer is the one who judges whether it is acceptable, e.g. customer service standards.
  • KPI’s/Measures are better though if they have numerous objective elements e.g. numbers, dates, quantities and so on. This helps you to focus on continuous tracking of how you are doing.  This also helps to keep your KPI’s/Measures specific rather than vague, which could lead to misunderstanding.
  • Thus, the KPI’s/Measures of “saving at least R10 000 per month on water usage compared to last year’s budget” is better than “saving as much money as possible on water usage.”


This is where the detail that supports the output/objectives is described. So, if the output/object was “Achieve Sales Volume, then the KPI’s/Measures will say how much and by when etc.

4. Understanding the concept of “Levels of Abstraction

In the example under Outputs in the previous section, the Outputs/Objectives are abstracted at a fairly high level. This gives me enough ”space”  to articulate my measures. However, I could have decided to set the abstraction at a more detailed level. This would look as per the following:

It’s easy to see that these could also be acceptable at a lower level of abstraction. The author of the performance objectives would need to decide at what level to pitch the performance agreement. However, one indication that is useful in this regard is that if you are struggling to determine enough detail for the KPI’s /Measures for a particular an output/objective, then there is a good chance that the output/objective is set at too low a level.


For example, if you decided to make “Missed call made up” as an output/objective, it may be difficult to state “what good looks like” i.e. the measures for this


One of the most frequent mistakes that managers tend to make is that they start to describe the measures in the Output/Objective column. They then also have difficulty determining the measures.

5. Putting it all together

The Aspiration format also has 2 other columns that need to be completed. These are KRA/KPA (Key result area/Key performance area and Balanced Scorecard Link. Firstly, we deal with KRA/KPA. These are normally higher-level categories that only require one or two words e.g.

Some companies also use this column to record their strategic objectives. Employees must then align their individual objectives to align to the strategic elements e.g. a company may have a revenue Growth strategy and they can then ensure that people align to this vision


The last element is the Balanced Scorecard element. In the HR world the balanced scorecard is used to ensure that outputs/objectives are not only focused on financial results but the other 3 scorecard elements as well. The balanced scorecard elements are typically the following:



Internal Processes

Client/Customer Service and relations

Growth and Development (of employees)


However, companies can change this to suit the sector. An airline company that was a client of ours wanted Safety as well, so we added it in.


6. Using Weighting

In the Aspiration format the weight is applied to the Output/Objective. It is not applied to KRA/KPA or the KPI’s Measure. The weighting must add up to 100% and the principle is that some objectives are more important and therefore carry a higher weighting.

For example, someone who scores a 4 (out of 5) for a higher weighted Output/Objective and a 2 for a lower weighted Output/Objective, will score higher than someone who scores a 2 for the higher weighted Output and a 4 for the lower weighted Output.

In the Aspiration format there can be a one to many relationships between KRA/KPA and Output/Objective. The weight for the KRA/KPA is derived from the sum of the weightings for the Outputs/Objectives.


So the final format for the Performance (Outputs) Section is as follows: